The users who have reviewed this film before me have all disliked it. The critics have been kinder, and the user rating of 6.8 is higher than I would have expected. I fully understand the dislike many viewers would have for it, but I think it's an outstanding film, one of the very best I've seen. The film concerns four principal characters: Alain (Guillaume Canet), a publisher; Selena (Juliette Binoche), Alain's wife and a successful actress; Léonard (Vincent Macaigne), a moderately-successful author; and Valérie (Nora Hamzawi), Léonard's wife and an aide to a well-known politician. All are in their early 40s, attractive in different ways, and professionally successful. There are two major themes: books and publishing in the age of the internet, social media and e-books, and the sexual and emotional relationships of the principal characters. The fulcrum on which the film moves is the work of Léonard. He writes what he describes as "auto-fiction", or semi-autobiographical novels, and the principal characters in his novels are thinly-disguised versions of his friends, lovers and colleagues. Thus when his latest novel describes a recent affair, there is public speculation about who the woman really was. There are many long scenes of discussions about writing, the validity of autobiographical novels as fiction in their own right, trends in the types of books that sell well or don't sell well, the future of publishing and a whole range of related topics. The discussions often take place at dinner parties where the hosts and guests are all more or less connected with writing or publishing; they are all intelligent, well-educated and articulate; and their conversations have a very convincing air of reality, with the speakers -- who are, after all, actors reciting lines -- appearing to advance their own genuine opinions. None of the many different points of view are portrayed as being clearly right or wrong; the questions discussed are difficult and many different opinions are valid. One of the reasons I enjoyed this film so much is that the discussions were intensely interesting. The personal relationships at first are very secondary to the questions about writing and publishing; but as the film progresses they assume greater importance. The persons involved feel their emotions deeply, but at the same time they are very clear-sighted and realistic about what they are doing. There is a scene where Selena, the actress, tells a friend whom she works with that she is sure that her husband (Alain, the publisher) is having an affair, as he in fact is. The friend asks her why she doesn't confront him. She replies that she doesn't see any need to; she is sure that Alain loves her, and that the affair will run its course and end; that to confront him would provoke a crisis and probably change the basis of their relationship; that there is more to love and a marriage than sexual fidelity; and that after 20 years of marriage it's not surprising that Alain might find another woman sexually attractive. What she doesn't say is that she herself has been having an affair for six years with Léonard, the writer. There are a number of short but very powerful moments where the characters do directly face their emotions. I won't mention all of them in order to avoid spoilers, but one example is where Léonard's wife Valérie asks him directly if he is having an affair and he is unable to give a direct answer. There's no real action and there's a huge amount of talking. It's not for everyone. But it's a highly intelligent and sophisticated film and I rate it very highly.
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Comedy / Drama / Romance
Set in the Parisian publishing world, an editor and an author find themselves in over their heads, as they cope with a middle-age crisis, the changing industry and their wives.
July 2, 2020