Anaïs In Love ****
Starring: Anaïs Demoustier, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Denis Podalydés, Christophe Montenez
Director: Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
There’s something about French comedy-romances that you either love or you hate. With flighty motor-mouthed whimsical heroines and idyllic Gallic paysage, this is either the stuff of idealism or cliché. But for the Francophiles among us - of whom I would count myself “un” - Anaïs In Love is a perfect example of when a metteur en scène pitches it just right.
Anaïs (Demoustier - Alice And The Mayor, Living On Love Alone) is a flighty Parisienne living pay-check to pay-check in a flat she can’t afford, supplementing her income by letting her home on Air B&B and sleeping on friends’ couches. Following a split with her boyfriend (Montenez - Paris Police 1900) because she tends to have affairs with older men, she goes to a party and on cue, meets an older man (Podalydés - Cache, The Conquest) and begins an affair with him. However, when she meets his wife, Emilie (Bruni Tadeschi - Summer Of ‘85, La Fracture), a novelist with the same world-view as her, Anaïs begins an intense pursuit of the unsuspecting older woman instead.
Demoustier is absolutely resplendent as Anaïs. Endearing, sweet and the epitome of the scatterbrained but refined mademoiselle, she is both magnetic and irritating in equal part. She defines it herself, admitting to living too much in the moment to ever amount to anything. Subsequently the universal Gen Z, she’s extremely likeable and fizzing with the enthusiastic vim of young woman unjaded by the harsh reality of life. If Amelie was about falling in love with the French aesthetic, Anaïs makes us fall in love with the French sensibility.
Emilie doesn’t stand a chance once Anaïs has her sights set on her. Going to extraordinary lengths to cross paths with the wife of her lover, the younger woman is like a hungry dog with a bone, refusing to let go of this new object of her affection. On the one hand, this is remarkably romantic; on the other… consent seems to be more of an abstract frivolity to her. That being said, the ending does right the balance of reality somewhat, but otherwise this is a film of grand romantic gestures, earnest declarations and intense obsession.
Beneath this all is a richly witty script, with Anaïs a luscious character written with absolute clarity of identity. It’s a character piece first and foremost, with genuinely funny scenes painting a vivid portrait of this compelling ingénue. Wide-eyed and naïve, her flaws are as charming as her qualities; whether babbling in French to tourists who don’t understand her or freely telling her landlady that she’s set fire to a flat before. And even if the film is light and inconsequential, spending 90 minutes with Anaïs is like going for a drink with that whirlwind friend we all have: essentially revitalising, but you wouldn’t want to deal with it every day.
Anaïs In Love sums up everything we love about Le Cinéma Français: idealised but pragmatic, witty but razor-sharp, playful but realistic. In the feature debut from director Bourgeois-Tacquet, this is confident filmmaking that establishes her as a name to watch in French cinema. And César-winner Demoustier was perfect casting to portray her namesake on screen.
UK Release: 19th August 2022 in cinemas and VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures