Non-Fiction – Film Review
by Frank L
Director: Olivier Assayas
Writer: Olivier Assayas
Stars: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne
Alain (Guillaume Canet) is an assured and successful editor in a prestigious Parisian publishing house. Leonard (Vincent Macaigne) is one of his established novelists whose work is becoming less marketable. The first twenty minutes are spent in a fairly excruciating discussion between the two which includes a visit to Le Petit St Benoit, a wonderful survivor of a Parisian restaurant from a more indigenous time. Alain fails during their long conversation to put the boot in. However, this long opening is all a smokescreen to a myriad of clandestine affairs : Alain is having an affair with Laure (Christa Theret), a digital expert who works in his office, who it turns out has interests outside married men. Meanwhile, Leonard has been having a long standing affair with Selena (Juliette Binoche) who is married to Alain. Valerie (Nora Hamzawi) is Leonard’s wife, who is very committed politically and surprisingly does not appear to be having an affair with anyone. The story line is all about how these lives unfold.
Assayas will be known to many for his previous work; Personal Shopper (2016) and Clouds of Sils Maria (2014). In this work, he gives an elegant insight into this comfortable world. Binoche is as always assured as she plays the role of wife, mother and lover. It all seems to come to her so effortlessly. Canet and Macaigne have two very different men to play on the surface but both of them make credible lovers. Theret plays a role of ice cool aloofness, so it is not easy to comprehend her role as a lover but as she has two on the go her ice maiden quality obviously has its admirers. Hamzawi, with the least exotic of the parts to play, provides a fine insight into an intelligent woman who plays within society’s so called conventions.
It is presented with elan and confidently acted but overall the film fails to engage. The characters with the possible exception of Valerie are all far too self-obsessed. Together they generate a sense of languor. It is elegant but that is not enough.