But soon enough we notice troubling details. His correspondence with his ex-girlfriend and his mom is full of misrepresentations about his experiences. Though his emails to the ex are friendly and cordial, her cold, wary response suggests their breakup wasn't nearly as one-sided as he told us. What else might he have lied about?
He meets a prostitute named Victoria (Mati Diop, also the film's co-writer), first in a professional capacity and then socially, whom he manipulates in his needy, narcissistic way. Simon uses people; Victoria is used by people. But they both fill the other role sometimes, too: Simon, in a foreign country and not totally fluent in the language, is easily taken advantage of; and Victoria, though a prostitute, is no victim. She knows how to get what she wants. There's a crucial and somewhat shocking moment when the power dynamic between them changes is a symbolic but unmistakeable way. The question then is how Simon will react to the shift.
This emotionlessness weighs the film down, though. As compelling as it may sound to watch a budding young sociopath come into full bloom, one's interest level is bound to wane when we're kept so detached from him. It is perhaps ironic that even though the story is told entirely through Simon's eyes, and is greatly influenced by his imbalanced train of thought, we never really understand what's going on with him. We're fascinated as he becomes an increasingly unreliable and erratic source of information. But the climax, when it finally does come, is as un-climactic as everything before it. There's a fine line between dispassionate and boring.
But I do like the film's cool, muted color palette (with cinematography by Joe Anderson) and the general vibe of un-emphasized creepiness. There's a highly engaging dramatic thriller hidden somewhere in this lugubrious, tamped-down Parisian nightmare.