An Impossible Love

 

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romantic drama perhaps better suited overall to its literary source.

 
Impossible Love, An

Au revoir les jeunes amoureux: Niels Schneider and Virginie Efira

 

There is much to enjoy in this film from the French director Catherine Corsini but all the best parts, those that are most quintessentially French, are to be found in the first half of this long work. It's an adaptation of the novel of the same name, Un amour impossible, by Christine Angot. In stark contrast to Corsini's 2008 drama, Leaving, this new work of hers initially reminded me of the work of Jacques Demy - and not least his masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The opening scenes of An Impossible Love set in central France in the town of Châteauroux come across as intensely romantic. Here we witness the passion experienced by young Rachel Steiner (Virginie Efira), who works as a secretary, and an attractive young man from a superior background, that's Philippe played by Niels Schneider. Although just occasionally we see the writer of a letter reading out its contents direct to camera, An Impossible Love lacks the extreme stylisation prominent in Cherbourg due to that work being sung throughout, but that film also captured the rapture of young love and went on to engage with complex emotions and disillusionment so the comparison feels valid.

 

Many a filmed love story follows the pattern set by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet by making the social context a fatal factor in the outcome. In contrast, An Impossible Love looks set to be a persuasive portrait of a passion so strong that Rachel does not question Philippe's suitability as a partner when he openly proclaims that he values his freedom and could never marry her. There may be an honesty in this declaration, but his admission that he might have married her if she were rich shows us his true character. Nevertheless, despite his attitude not changing even when Rachel gives birth to his daughter Chantal and despite the fact that he eventually does marry somebody for her money, Rachel remains in love with him: she welcomes his somewhat infrequent visits and hopes that he will eventually acknowledge Chantal so that she will not be treated as a child whose father is unknown.

 

Rachel's story is told in voice over by Chantal and the daughter's relationship with her father becomes a significant factor, yet one supposes that the impossible love of the title is that of Rachel for Philippe suggesting therefore that this will remain the prime focus. However, with a series of actresses playing the role, Chantal's often troubled attitude to her mother now takes screen centre and the film, moving for a while in no clear direction, starts to seem overlong. This is not helped by the fact that the film is so slow to follow up a key plot development (a hint is given that arouses our suspicions but it then takes ages before it is confirmed). A distraction of another kind arises when one crucial scene stands out as an event unknown at the time by Chantal although she continues to be our narrator. Furthermore, when we do reach the close at last we find ourselves offered an explanation that gives the most disturbing aspect of Philippe's behaviour a motivation that I for one found unconvincing. An Impossible Love is well cast, very competently acted and appealingly photographed in colour and 'Scope but, while the first half shows us behaviour which however misguided is fully believable, the second half spread over several years is more episodic and at times much less persuasive.

 

Original title: Un amour impossible.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Virginie Efira, Niels Schneider, Jehnny Beth, Estelle Lescure, Coralie Russier, Iliana Zabeth, Catherine Merlot, Ambre Haraj, Sasha Alessandri-Torrès Garcia, Pierre Salvadori, Gaël Kamilindi, Simon Bakhouche.

 

Dir Catherine Corsini, Pro Elisabeth Perez, Screenplay Catherine Corsini and Laurette Polmanss, from the novel by Christine Argot, Ph Jeanne Lapoirie, Art Dir Toma Baqueni, Ed Frédéric Baillehaiche, Music Grëgoire Hetzel, Costumes Virginie Montel.

 

CHAZ Productions/Artémis Productions/Le Pacte/France 3 Cinéma/Canal+/Ciné +-Curzon Artificial Eye.
135 mins. France/Belgium. 2018. Rel: 4 January 2019. Cert. 15.