Review: An Impossible Love
by Fabien Lemercier
- Passion, manipulation and tragic consequences are at stake in this adaptation of Christine Angot's novel by Catherine Corsini
"It’s the story of an eternal and banal love that brings all things good and bad with it every day." It's 1958 in Châteauroux, a small town in the French province and a couple takes to the dancefloor to dance to a song by Dalida, whose premonitory words will haunt the forty years that follow this love at first sight. A vast temporal arc based on a novel by Christine Angot, which Catherine Corsini has adapted in her new film, An Impossible Love [+see also:
film profile], screened at the 33rd Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur (FIFF) after its premiere at the end of August at the Festival du Film Francophone d’Angoulême and just before its French release on 7 November.
Going back to the roots of a relationship between a mother and her daughter (who tells the story via a voiceover), the feature film is split into three phases, beginning with a brief romance between the modest and determined Rachel (Virginie Efira), a pretty single 25-year-old typist, and the dark handsome Philippe (Niels Schneider), who has come to work as a translator on an American base nearby and is the son of a family of Parisian doctors. Intellectual fascination and lust make Rachel the consenting victim of an affair that Philip openly announces as not having any marital future due to it being "beyond social order" ("if you had been rich, it would have been different, perhaps"), before returning to Paris a few months later.
But Rachel is pregnant and will never stop trying to get recognition for her daughter Chantal and seeing Philippe again, who will play cat and mouse with her feelings and expectations for years, responding to letters, then disappearing before coming back again, planting red flags (he marries a wealthy young woman), before disappearing once again. Time passes, Rachel leads a lonely work life, raising her only daughter in the myth of her ectoplasmic father. But as a teenager (Estelle Lescure), Philippe finally agrees to see them again, and to recognise Chantal as his. A decision that will have far-reaching consequences for the mother and daughter and which will poison their subsequent relationship (with Jehnny Beth as Chantal, who also becomes a wife and mother in turn).
Dissecting the strong grip of a perverse manipulator on a woman, blindly in love, against a backdrop of social class rejection, An Impossible Love uses a very classic form, advancing in time with well-balanced jump cuts (based on a screenplay written by the director with Laurette Polmanss), all while painting a terrible portrait of the very bad karma resulting from an emotional passion. However, without their performances being implicated, the real ages of the two main actors pose some problems (Virgina Efira is moderately credible as a 26-year-old and Niels Schneider seems to age like Dorian Gray), as is the recourse to the narrative voice-over that certainly pays tribute to Christine Angot's text, but which distances the viewer from the cruel unfolding of events. Choices that nevertheless stem from a faithful desire to embrace several destinies and impossible loves (between mother, father and daughter) in the same film, a theme that the filmmaker never loses sight of in her desire to lift the veil on the baseness at work to the detriment of the purity of hearts.
(Translated from French)
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