The Last Diamond, directed by Eric Barbier (The Serpent), is a thrilling heist story.
Through a tangle of deceit, an unlikely connection is formed between Yvan Attal’s Simon and Bérénice Bejo’s Julia, two characters from differing backgrounds. Simon is a charismatic con man who agrees to take part in one of the biggest and most ambitious thefts: stealing a 137-carat diamond known as the “Florentin”.
Simon is convinced by Albert (Jean-François Stévenin), his friend and business partner, to do business with a group of associates he doesn’t know. To succeed in obtaining the diamond, Simon must get close to Julia, who recently lost her mother to a drug overdose and who chooses to maintain her legacy as a diamond expert. It’s the personal involvements that make the diamond only part of the many complications in this roller coaster of a story.
The Last Diamond is oddly funny and dark. Funny, in how it reveals the excessive detailing found in costuming and identities needed to carry out a convincing heist. And dark, through the variety of double-edged characters all trigger happy and highly motivated by profit.
Barbier adds a soft tone by giving us an outsider’s perspective, maintained through the eyes of Simon, in contrast to that of the ritzy world where the diamond is stationed. Simon’s role as a friend and security trustee of Julia’s late mother is convincing, and then you see Simon’s disheveled hair and beanie. Simon is returned to this outsider world, stripped away from his previous authority.
Seeing these binaries in class adds a Robin Hood-type metaphor; you want the heist to be successful and the poor to gain from the rich. But it isn’t all that simple. Julia plays a humble devotee to her mother and is ultimately a nice person, not the usual uppity character that makes you side with the bad guys. This becomes a point of conflict, especially for Simon and his investment in the heist.
Metaphorically, the inside characters represent Julia and her family friends, whilst the outside “bad” guys are seen through Simon and his entourage. This is a great way to see two classes come together, both intentionally and unintentionally, adding a nice dimension to the storyline. Regardless of class, flawed characters exist, which is something articulated well by the film.
A change in formula at the halfway point requires more involvement from the viewer. The detective genre kicks in, opening up new character dynamics, a load of new information and more than one twist. The change is not hard to grasp, nor confusing, but it does shake up the narrative, connecting the past to the present in this intriguing world of diamonds.
At times, keeping up with The Last Diamond can be hard and a little confusing, as the audience is fed copious amounts of detail that one assumes will sort itself out, only without knowing when. No disregard to the genre, but this seems a stock-standard trait in the heist genre. In saying that, The Last Diamond handles itself in the best possible context, feeding information in a fun and thrilling way that makes it seem natural to passively experience it.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10