Daniel Auteuil did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Georges Laurent in Caché.
Daniel Auteuil plays the patriarch of the family who also is a successful talk show host. He and his wife Anne (Juliette Binoche) begin to receive tapes on their front door step. The tape records the front of their house, but nothing else. Auteuil's work is very natural in these early scenes as the two attempt to decipher what exactly is being presented to them. Auteuil initially makes Georges more or less just as any normal man would react to the situation. He conveys the sense of confusion in the circumstances as well as the understandable undercurrent of fear that stems from being observed. Auteuil throughout the rest of the film, well except for his very brief scenes where we see him doing his job, at the very least has a small sense of discomfort in his portrayal of George, as Auteuil finds the right type of paranoia of a man who knows he's always being watched. He does not overplay this as he rather keeps it understated and natural to a man trying to still live his life as normally as possible.
Auteuil only occasionally strikes harder in these early scenes, and effectively so, as the frustration of the ongoing tapes puts him on an edge in part due to his inability to explain them. Eventually the videos themselves seem to indicate something when one of them is of Georges's old childhood home instead. This brings Georges to visit his mother. It's a great scene for Auteuil as he finds the right warmth of a son speaking with his mother yet captures that nagging thought in the back of his mind the whole time. Georges never can quite speak directly to his mother about what is going on, but begins to allude to what he believes is the cause. Auteuil finds that thought as though it is a wound that only seems to fester in his mind, as the man cannot stop himself from trying to comprehend the past. Though the details are sketchy at first, Georges comes to believe the tapes are coming from Majid (Maurice Bénichou) an orphan boy his family took in until the six year old Georges told a lie about that got the boy sent back to an orphanage.
Auteuil's work illustrates the conflict within Georges when dealing with this matter, which he takes some time to admit to his wife or even himself. Auteuil does not portray Georges as having a direct guilt nor does he portray him as indifferent to the past. Auteuil finds instead the detail of situation in his performance. There is a sense of guilt, though a worn and measured guilt. Auteuil has it present enough that it wears on Georges but it never overwhelms him. Auteuil reflects even a shield of sorts by this as though there are moments where Georges fights against the idea of guilt given his age when he made the lie and the amount of time that has passed by. Auteuil shows how troubling it is though as Georges never deals with completely yet cannot rid himself of it either. Georges though does take action by confronting Majid over the tapes, though the man denies them. Auteuil's work again excels being so realistically defining the interaction as he depicts the frustrations of a man who just wants the strange form of terrorism to end.
The tapes only continue and things appear to escalate as Georges's son goes missing. Auteuil carefully never has Georges break at any point instead portrays Georges attempt to repress it all best he can, and appear as together as he can. Auteuil never falters in this, and never seems vague. His work is astute as he builds the intensity of the situation with minor outburst, never an explosion, and impressively expresses every moment within the confines of this man trying to keep it together. Auteuil becomes quietly powerful as every moment is felt in his performance through his subtle presentation of it. There is one particularly disconcerting scene where something rather extreme happens in an instant, and Auteuil adds so much to the moment by making his reaction feel absolutely real. What is perhaps Auteuil's strongest scene though is when Georges is confronted by Majid's son. Auteuil reveals the entirety of Georges struggle, the fear, the dread, the anger, and even the sadness in the conversation. He barely raises his voice but he doesn't have to you know exactly what the man is going through at every point of it. Auteuil never vilifies Georges nor does he make him an innocent victim. He grants the complexity he deserves by presenting him truthfully as a man in a terrible situation with a troubling past.