The last two films directed by Lisa Azuelos met with a mixed reception. LOL (Laughing Out Loud), the French version, was a huge hit in France while it’s American remake, starring teen-star turned infamous twerker, Miley Cyrus, was a monumental flop. This time Azuelos keeps the focus on love but shifts from adolescent angst to middle-age melodrama. Une Rencontre brings back Sophie Marceau in the female lead against François Cluzet of Intouchables fame. It’s an interesting match which generates less heat and more of a cuddly, chummy kind of relationship.
Marceau is Elsa, a forty-something novelist, a job which is rapidly becoming the default career choice for woman of a certain age in French films ( see Les Yeux Jaunes des Crocodiles). While at a book festival in Rennes, she is introduced to Pierre, a forty-something successful, married lawyer. The two immediately fall for each other. But Pierre loves his wife and Elsa has a rule against dating married men. What follows revolves around that great rom-com teaser ‘will they or won’t they get together?’
Azuelos deals with the question by padding out the tale with various fantasy versions of what would happen if the two were to give in to temptation and have a relationship. It’s a bit of a cop-out especially as the viewer is unaware until the end of a scene whether the action is real or imagined. There’s a lot of nifty camera work – split screens, multiple split screens – which lends a definite perfume-ad feel to the film and perhaps diverts attention away from the thinness of the storylline.
No serious attempt is made by Azuelos to explore the issues of infidelity, single-motherhood, female friendships – or anything really. Fortunately, Marceau is hugely sexy and funny and brings a welcome energy to the film dragging the slightly miscast Cluzet along in her wake. Cliche-ridden it may be, but Une Rencontre is an enjoyable 90 minutes of undemanding frivolity.