LOVER FOR A DAY: An Inviting Romance
If you enjoy French cinema, Lover For a Day won’t disappoint you: with its black and white picture, the dramatic, intricate, sensual love story, and its earnest dialogue that comes across even sweeter to English speakers, this movie is a must-see.
Phillippe Garrel’s Lover for a Day is the epitome of French Cinema. It tells the story of Jeanne (Esther Garrel), a heartbroken girl who goes to stay with her dad after being kicked out by her boyfriend. When she arrives, she learns that her father (Eric Caravaca) is living with a new girlfriend… who happens to be her own age.
An Unlikely Friendship
Audiences might expect a negative reaction from Jeanne about her father’s young lover, Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), where Jeanne is uncomfortable with the idea of her father dating someone so young. In a refreshing twist, it is Jeanne and Ariane’s affable relationship that drives the narrative. Jeanne comes to her father’s home crushed, and it is Ariane’s taste for life and love that puts her back together.
As bizarre as it may be, Ariane and Jeanne’s friendship is endearing. It certainly isn’t mother-daughter-like, since they are the same age. They have a natural connection – which in large part has to do with the honest performances by Garrel and Chevillotte. The characters’ personalities fit together as opposites attract, with Jeanne being passionate about her one true love and Ariane being passionate about love and love-making. They keep each other in-check when the other breaks down.
Gilles (Eric Caravaca) is both a caring father to Jeanne and an attentive boyfriend to Ariane. His struggle, though, is to keep Ariane on a short leash. Of course, that doesn’t work. Viewers of the film could find it offensive that Gilles takes his anger out on Ariane by hitting her when he finds her cheating, and the fact that she is one of his university students. Yet, he is not painted as an evil character. Is it too much or is it realistic story and character development? I would say it is for the audience to decide.
The story and characters are engaging which makes the movie come out strong, but it isn’t without flaws. The film is in black and white, which is a bit cliché in a French movie and in this case, doesn’t add anything to the cinematography or otherwise. Other than being in black and white, what was captivating about the cinematography is that every frame is a beautiful portrait of its subject. So, despite the overreaching with black and white, each picture does help tell a lovely story. The simplicity of other aspects such as the production design and sound add to the reality of the story and make it verisimilitudinous.
There are some aspects of Jeanne’s story that are overdramatic, like almost committing suicide to show her ex-boyfriend how much he hurt her. Additionally, there is a scene where we meet Jeanne’s ex, Mateo (Paul Toucang), when Ariane goes to pick up Jeanne’s stuff from her old apartment. Mateo is irritating and it makes one wonder how Jeanne could possibly be so in love with him. The scene is unnecessary, and Jeanne’s storyline would have been stronger without it.
An Unapologetically Abrupt Ending
Philippe Garrel handles the story delicately. He takes care to exhibit believable characters and their emotions throughout the film. From the beginning of Jeanne’s breakup to developing the relationship between Ariane and Jeanne and then Ariane and Gilles, and then directing a naturally warm relationship between Gilles and his daughter, Garrel wrote and directed an honest look at modern love.
The movie’s ending seems to just drop off the face of the earth and is the farthest thing from satisfying, but perhaps it is realistic. If you were Jeanne’s best friend, you probably wouldn’t want this ending for her. But do our best friends always take our advice? They don’t. For that reason, Jeanne is accessible to the audience.
Lover for a Day: Conclusion
Despite its flaws, Lover for a Day is a thoughtful piece of cinema. Viewers won’t be disappointed by the sympathetic narrative and will especially enjoy Garrel and Chevillotte. If you enjoy French cinema, it won’t disappoint you either: with its black and white picture, the dramatic, intricate, sensual love story, and its earnest dialogue that comes across even sweeter to English speakers, this movie is a must-see.
Do you like French romances or does Lover for a Day come off as tired?
Lover for a Day was released on January 12, 2018 in the U.S.
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