Speeding down the highway in a white convertible, David Rousseau (Jean-Paul Rouve) gets a neat introduction as Nobody Else But You opens: Enjoying a song on the radio, he loses the frequency, stops the car, and reverses backward, finishing it parked on the side of the highway. In this great prelude, the scrappy hero gets shafted on an inheritance, dumps a stuffed dog in a trash can, and speeds off again before a budding, inconsequential mystery strands him in a tiny snowbound village. Surrounded by noir stock archetypes, Rousseau comes to be entirely defined by his quest, one whose perfunctory unveiling of local mysteries never rises beyond cliché.
The film pursues one of the most shopworn methods for inciting a mystery, with this burnt-out novelist finally getting new inspiration for his writing by investigating an actual case. It echoes HBO’s Bored to Death and Claude Chabrol’s Inspector Bellamy, but without the former’s humor or the latter’s genuine menace. Supplementing its familiar premise with nods to the Coen brothers (a Fargo-style setting and some weirdo locals) and Buñuel (the murdered femme fatale was a spokesmodel for Belle de Jura cheese) makes Nobody Else But You feel even more minor.
The film’s most interesting angle is its focus on female objectification, following the deathward descent of Martine Langevin (Sophie Quinton) as she loses grasp of her internal self, turning into an increasingly obscure object of desire. Discovered by a photographer while pumping gas, the virginal teenager becomes a model, then a sexy weather lady, her deepening hollowness exacerbated by a string of relationships with powerful men. This transition is accompanied by at least one sly gesture, with director Gérald Hustache-Mathieu piling on the male nudity (the entire fire brigade goes full frontal during a calendar shoot) while leaving his leading lady mostly covered up. But such smart moves are negated by the increasingly ill-conceived plot, which has Martine’s story, mostly told through the diaries that the snooping Rousseau finds in her apartment, mirror Marilyn Monroe’s downfall. The connection may make sense, but films trying to glean some shine from Monroe’s legacy have never fared well, and hitting the bullet points of her story overwhelms Nobody Else But You. It’s no surprise that the resulting cloak-and-dagger nonsense, which incorporates JFK-like politicians, government intrigue, and rabid teenage fans, is both underdeveloped and distressingly silly.
Equally weird is the film’s trick of having Martine narrate the goings-on from beyond the grave, a technique that’s abruptly dropped early on. Unfortunately, this isn’t before a weird scene involving the dead woman pining for Rousseau as he inspects her corpse on a steel slab, a scene that teeters between icky melodrama and outright ickiness. Hustache-Mathieu routinely gets distracted by such gimmicky diversions, rather than developing his central detective, who remains a cipher, shrinking in importance as the mystery swells around him. While Nobody Else But You aspires to a kind of French Fargo, it forgets the primary qualities that made that film work: thorough shading of stock characters and a mystery that fits the size of its small-town setting.