Maven's Nest

Reel Life: Flick Pix

- courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Anaïs Demoustier glows as a millennial in French intellectual rom com

By Nora Lee Mandel

Written and Directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
Produced by David Thion, Stéphane Demoustier, Philippe Martin, and Igor Auzépy
France. 98 min. Not Rated
In English and French with English subtitles
With: Anaïs Demoustier, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Denis Podalydès, Xavier Guelfi, Jean-Charles Clichet, and Christophe Montenez
Release by: Magnolia Pictures - In Theaters April 29, 2022 - On Demand May 6, 2022

at 2022 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema of Film at Lincoln Center

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s debut feature starts out as a tongue-in-cheek satire of French millennials’ rom coms. But just when you think the only reason to watch is the captivating performance of Anaïs Demoustier as the fictional “Anais”, the film takes an emotional turn with surprising substance.

The personality of this “Anais” grew out of the short film Pauline Enslaved/(Asservie) (2018) Bourgeois-Tacquet made with Demoustier. (Available on vimeo to rent or download). “Pauline” walks and talks with the speed and self-absorption of “Anais”, while slowly working towards a PhD in literature. “Pauline” is also defensive about being considered a “gerontophile” for her affair with an older man, but her preoccupation with his texts is like a teen-ager.

The fictional “Anaïs” carries a madcap bundle of neuroses on her bicycle that always make her late. Her claustrophobia keeps her off the Metro, and out of apartment elevators and a shared bed with a lover. Somehow her almost-husband Raoul (Christophe Montenez) finds these affectations adorable. She seems to use everyone she knows – her landlady is the mother of a friend of Raoul’s, so she expects tolerance of her inability to pay the rent after she throws him out. Among the other issues she juggles with her apartment, her conception of love, and her body that distracts her from dealing with her mother’s illness.

She’s comfortable going to a gathering at the apartment of her brother Balthazar’s (Xavier Guelfi) girlfriend’s parents, and breezily jumps into bed with their book publisher friend Daniel (Denis Podalydès), as a casual favor for him. Daniel comically has more angst about cheating on his out-of-town partner, and analyses his behavior as another 12-year itch, like what he pulled on his first wife. When “Anaïs” plumbs him about his attitude, she’s surprised to learn his partner is an author whose work she admires, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, demonstrating that a woman can be mature and lovely).

Then “Anaïs” really gets obsessed. Before, Raoul teased she was a bulldozer; now she lies, breaks promises, manipulates men she charms, including her thesis advisor, and shrugs off the distinctive women around her. She even childishly fibs with her fingers crossed behind her back.

All to get who she wants. Is she in love or is she in the grip of an overwhelming adolescent infatuation? Moving from the city to nature, her passion rejuvenates a workaholic, though there’s an unfortunate drift towards a cliché relationship: “I’m in exaltation thanks to you.” Which just sounds like French intellectual for “You make me feel young again.”

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu) showed similar, glowing chemistry. But those women were rebelling against rigid 18th century strictures. These 21st century women can create their own freedom spaces without definitions.


Nora Lee Mandel is a member of New York Film Critics Online. Her reviews are counted in the Rotten Tomatoes TomatoMeter:
Complete Index to Nora Lee Mandel's Movie Reviews

My reviews have appeared on: Film-Forward; FF2 Media; Lilith, FilmFestivalTraveler; and, Alliance of Women Film Journalists and for Jewish film festivals. Shorter versions of my older reviews are at IMDb's comments, where non-English-language films are listed by their native titles.

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