Review of the Breezy New French Film ‘Anaïs in Love’
Greetings again from the darkness. Barely five minutes in, we have concluded that Anaïs is a whirlwind of activity. She’s behind on her rent and yet turns the conversation with her landlord to fruit juice and a smoke alarm. This is the first feature film from writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet who benefits greatly from the presence of lead actor Anaïs Demoustier. I have no idea if the name is a coincidence or whether this was written with her in mind, but we quickly realize that Anaïs is a mess. A charming mess, and one for which hope remains.
Anaïs is always late. She walks, runs, or rides her bicycle everywhere. Her bright red lipstick is always on display, and she’s claustrophobic and prefers to sleep alone. The constant twinkle in her eye means folks look past her seemingly carefree approach to real life, as she makes the best of each landing spot in her directionless path(s) through each day. We observe and learn all of these things on top of the big secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez). During the exchange they have when he breaks up with her, she says, “You are violent in your inertia.” This may be my favorite line of the year. What others view as stability and dependability, Anaïs views as inertia and unappealing.
When Anaïs takes Daniel (Denis Podalydès) as a lover, it’s the older married man who ends it by stating he doesn’t want his life to change. Anaïs shrugs and turns her attention and affections to Daniel’s wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Human Capital, sister of Carla Bruni). Emilie is a famous author and Anaïs worms her way in by tracking Emilie to Normandy where she’s holding a symposium. Writing, books, and literature play subtle yet key roles throughout as if Anaïs is trying to live out so many of the stories she’s read.
If there is anything lacking here, it’s traditional character conflict. Even the surprise collision of Daniel, Emilie, and Anaïs at the symposium doesn’t pack the dramatic or comedic punch we would expect. Anaïs is never much concerned, so neither are we as viewers. We are too enamored and intrigued with her energy and spirit to let real-life cause consternation. The subplot with Anaïs’ mother is the closest we see Anaïs come to ‘normal’ emotions, but even getting to that point, is yet another whirlwind.