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Louis Garrel A Faithful Man Review

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A Faithful Man | Review

A Faithful Man | Review

He’s an Easy Lover: Garrel Leans on Influences with Fitful Love Triangle(s)

Louis Garrel A Faithful Man ReviewActor cum director Louis Garrel returns to a fussy triptych with his sophomore film A Faithful Man, wherein he’s recruited legendary scribe Jean-Claude Carriere as co-writer. With handsome support from some comely colleagues (including his wife, Laetitia Casta), Garrel sparks a tone which melds elements from some of his father Philippe Garrel’s recent examples of amour fou (2017’s Lover For a Day, also scripted by Carriere, for instance), the transgressive frivolity of Christophe Honore (who recruited the actor as his muse across a range of features), and even the snide passivity of a Woody Allen protagonist. While the younger Garrel doesn’t quite land on anything quite as formidable as any of those references might suggest, there’s a tangible morbidity to this pendulum swinging romantic comedy which posits its women characters as the narrative’s true power players.

Much to his surprise, Abel (Garrel) is informed by long-time girlfriend Marianne (Casta) she is pregnant by his best friend Phil. Because Phil’s parents are a bit old-fashioned, Marianne plans on marrying her secret lover, which necessitates Abel move out of their shared apartment before the wedding in ten days’ time. Shocked and perplexed, Abel moves on with his life. Suddenly, nine years later, Phil dies unexpectedly in his sleep, bringing Abel back into Marianne’s orbit at the man’s funeral. Now the single mother of nine-year-old Joseph (Joseph Engel), Marianne finds herself in need of a shoulder to cry on. As they fall back into a romantic rhythm, their newfound bliss is tested by Joseph, who begins to confide in Abel he believes his mother was responsible for the death of his father. Meanwhile, Abel is re-introduced to Phil’s little sister Eve (Lily-Rose Depp), who was just a child when Abel left their circle but has carried a flame for him all these years…and aims to make Abel hers.

The presence of Carriere holds the promise of something much stranger in A Faithful Man than its curious scenario ever really leads to. Perhaps intentionally, however, it paints a portrait of modern love and attraction as more of a trifling convenience, a construction infinitely more effusive in one’s mind than it ever amounts to in real life. Of course, it doesn’t help our protagonist is something of a wishy-washy semblance of romantic idealism. Garrel paints Abel as a young man adrift in his own private platitudes, without any real passion or zeal for his relationships or occupation—one forgets he’s become a journalist, so disinterested he in furthering his career. In his lackluster love life, he’s an object to be acted upon (and, as such, is a nifty inverse of the female role usually at the apex of these scenarios). As Marianne points out to him, “You’re easy to have.”

Casta, who is something of an underutilized visage in French cinema, is quite alluring as the inscrutable Marianne, who volleys Abel back and forth between his friend and said friend’s younger sister, Eva, played with appropriate solemnity by Lily-Rose Depp. It seems notable that Garrel is named Abel (the victimized brother of the biblical Cain), whilst Depp’s Eve is an incestuous fixture from his past, much like the biblical first woman’s relation to said brothers.

Whatever Carriere and Garrel are trying to do here, there’s definitely enough weirdness to cast doubt on the intentions of all players save Eve, who is simply acting on the adolescent urges she’s mulled over since girlhood. An encounter with a doctor whom Marianne may or may not have slept with in exchange for sidestepping an autopsy on her dead husband remains something in the back of our minds (as well as Abel’s). Likewise, the film’s diegetic inclusion of the 1946 film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (a classic noir long languished in the public domain), which featured a deadly love triangle between Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas, whose childhood relationships become a perverted tangle as adults, seems to provide some textual reference points. And as it’s revealed all their trajectories were the result of a fateful dash of chance, A Faithful Man becomes not so much a relevant film than a portrait of dysfunctional heteronormative peccadillos.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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