Dir: Valerie Donzelli | Cast: Virginie Efira, Melville Poupaud | France, drama 110′
When a woman reconnects with a guy she once knew sparks fly and a romance catches fire in this intense thriller from French director Valerie Donzelli
Starring Virginie Efira and Melville Poupaud this Cannes 2023 premiere is based on Eric Reinhardt’s award-winning novel Amour et les Forets and written for the screen by Donzelli and Audrey Diwan. The love affair between teacher Blanche (Efira) and urbane banker Gregoire (Poupaud) moves swiftly from sexual attraction to pregnancy and marriage. But we sense from the outset that something is wrong and alarm bells soon ring loudly when Gregoire introduces his new girlfriend as his ‘wife’ to complete strangers. Soon the couple are celebrating a move from Blanche’s family home in Normandy to a spacious 1960s style house in the eastern city of Metz. Later Blanche will discover that Gregoire engineered the move to separate his new wife from her twin sister (also played by Efira, wearing a wig) and her mother in an attempt to isolate her so he can dominate the relationship.
And once the champagne glasses are put away Gregoire’s controlling personality comes to the fore reducing Blanche, a confident and outgoing woman, to a near nervous wreck. So not a new idea but a tense and at times uncomfortable film made all the more so by stunning performances from two actors at the top of their game.
A clever narrative device has Blanche relating the unfolding events to her lawyer, played by Dominique Reymond in a commanding turn, and this gives the film an authentic grounding making it feel all the more chilling as a day to day reality for many women today subjected to domestic violence from their psychologically disturbed partners whose pattern of behaviour is always charming and persuasive at the outset known as ‘love-bombing’ in popular parlance. Blanche also makes the tragic mistake of seeking a release in an online dating site rather than confronting Gregoire and forcing him to seek professional help. MT
NOW ON RELEASE IN FRANCE | CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2023