The charming comedy marks a strong feature film debut for writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet.
By Will DiGravio · Published on April 26, 2022
The titular character of Anaïs in love takes what she wants. She is honest, leans on risks and says what she thinks and feels. Her older lovers are attracted to it. Younger people, her other 30-year-olds, resent it. Both are fascinated, amazed and at times seemingly jealous of her approach to life.
Some viewers may also take an issue with Anaïs, played here in a rich and fun performance of Anais Demoustier. At times, she appears selfish, ruthless, and a little annoying, as protagonists in comedies often do. But most will (and should) rejoice as Anaïs takes command of her own life and destiny in a world that otherwise makes it harder for young people to live, love and carefree.
Anaïs in love marks the writer-director’s playing debut Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet. The film follows Anaïs and tells about her life and struggles as a young woman in France: she is finishing a thesis, she has a boyfriend who leaves a lot to be desired, she is behind with the rent, etc. Anaïs soon leaves her boyfriend and starts watching an elderly man, a book publisher named Daniel (Denis Podalydes), but it is far from the solution to her problems.
Bourgeois-Tacquet’s smart film takes a turn as Daniel invites Anaïs to spend the night in his large apartment, a homely, elegant, bookshelf-filled room one would expect an elderly, wealthy couple to live in. He shares the home with his partner of twelve years, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a successful writer who often works in the countryside. As Anaïs walks around their apartment, one notices the generation gap between the two; the difference between Millennials and the people who are old enough to be their parents. Those who have and those who do not.
There is a venerable tradition for such films getting older. Those where a person in their late twenties / early thirties struggles to come to terms with real adult life. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwigs Frances Ha (2012) is probably the most influential example of the last decade. One could also point to a number of recent films, including last year’s The worst person in the world and this month Paris, 13th arrondissement. These films deal with experiences that transcend time and age, but they also each offer their empathic understanding of what it is like to be a young person in this century.
Anaïs in love picks up the baton from such films and offers a bid for the urge for simple pleasures. By fondling Emilie’s make-up, books and other fine things, Anaïs begins to form a connection with the woman. And while she does, we think about the difference between the two women, the young person’s urge to just have the comfort of the older person, and the need to just be clarified in troubled times.
Anaïs’ final hunt for Emilie naturally opens up the comic potential of the film, which Bourgeois-Tacquet exploits with great effect. Anaïs always seems to run and race to get the most out of life. And once that fervor comes in the pursuit of something more genuine, the film also becomes more fervent, and any annoyance we may have felt quickly subsides.
Bourgeois-Tacquet, with assists from film photographer Noah Bach and editor Chantal Hymans, excellently depicts the bubbling sexual tensions between Anaïs and Emilie. They fall in love with each other on a number of levels: intellectually, emotionally and then later physically. The editing and cinematography capture each of these developments in a wonderful crescendo that climaxes with Anaïs personal growth.
However, a number of the film’s subplots sometimes feel out of place. For example, there are a few scenes depicting the conflict between Anaïs and her landlord; a visit to his brother, whose monkey goes into a kind of cardiac arrest; and then a trip home to visit her parents, where she finds out that her mother’s cancer has returned. Only the latter feels particularly relevant or compelling, especially as Anaïs reckons with questions about age, mentorship, life and love. The others feel like unnecessary tributaries introduced to fulfill the film’s bill as a comedy.
Anaïs in love is witty and enticing enough without monkeys and landlords. The chemistry between Demoustier and Tedeschi is infinitely riveting. There is a tenderness between the two in all their interactions, whether they are watching a movie, eating an apple or a lover on the beach.
Bourgeois-Tacquet’s films have a refreshing override of plausibility. There are times when the viewer may scratch their head and wonder how it all works, but that only enhances the film’s delightful romance and cathartic conclusion.
Anaïs in Love will have its cinema premiere on April 29, 2022 and will be in demand from May 6, 2022.
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Will DiGravio is a Brooklyn-based critic, researcher and video essayist who has been a contributor to Film School Rejects since 2018. Follow and / or stop him on Twitter @willigravio.