The expression “genre movie” can be somewhat frustrating in film, as this notion that a picture is already associated so closely to one particular cinematic style, almost self-imposing the boundaries and limitations of the genre upon itself, abiding, albeit affectionately, to the tropes at hand. It’s therefore refreshing when settling down to watch a film that is truly indefinable, and Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s 21 Nights With Pattie fits that very mould. Part drama, thriller, horror and romance, all complete with a sprinkling of comedy – even if you dislike this creative endeavour, which is comprehensible, it’s difficult not to admire it.

The title of this piece may suggest Karin Viard’s Pattie, a brazen, at times indecorous woman, would be the driving force of the narrative, but that is bestowed upon Caroline, brought to life by Isabelle Carré. But only just – for the latter is timorous and unassertive, feeling very much out of her comfort zone when travelling alone to her recently deceased mother’s abode, for the forthcoming burial. This house is a home to many, including Pattie, who along with her son and a handful of indolent labourers, drift through this coastal paradise, brushing shoulders in a mist of wine, sex and good food.

But then the film takes a turn – taking on the form of a more traditionalist whodunit (there’s even a detective introduced, played by Laurent Poitrenaux), as Caroline’s mother’s corpse is taken. A few supporting characters come to mind as potential culprits – such as a sexual deviant, impish local played by Denis Lavant, while we have the emergence of the charismatic, elderly author Jean (André Dussollier), who turns up to the house out of the blue, claiming to be an old flame of the deceased.

For the most part, Caroline may play second fiddle to those around her – particularly during scenes with Pattie where the latter explicitly recounts her latest sexual adventures, but she’s an essential entry point into this surrealistic, almost farcical world, with a look of bewilderment smacked across her face, as curious and bemused as we are by it all. It’s an accomplished performance, but Viard is blessed with the more comically inclined sequences, as a role that is emblematic of the film itself – enjoyable to be around, certainly, but not sure you’d necessarily want to see her again. 21 days appears to be more than enough.

But the film has a certain wooziness to it, as you feel similar to how many of the character’s live their lives – stumbling around with a glass of wine, never quite sure where you are, but sure that you quite like it. It’s so endearingly French, and beguilingly poetic in its verse (even managing to be so necrophilia, seriously). Plus, when it comes to contemporary cinema, to be so distinctively French is no bad thing, and instead should be considered as a remark of sincere laudation.