Anaïs in Love is not your typical romantic comedy. In fact, some people may not even see it as one. The film, which marks writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feature directorial debut, tells a breathless and charming story about one woman whose restless pursuit of joy leads her to seek out the female partner of a man she’d previously been having an affair with. In its tone, attitude, and presentation, Anaïs in Love has more in common with the films of Éric Rohmer and Noah Baumbach than it does with When Harry Met Sally or Notting Hill.
But Anaïs in Love also has all of the things that a good romantic comedy requires. It has a playful sense of humor from its first scene to its last, several laugh-out-loud jokes and visual gags, and two charming, charismatic performances from Anaïs Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. It is also bursting at the seams with joy and romance and features one of the most delightful inversions of the standard rom-com meet-cute of any movie of the past few years.
Bourgeois-Tacquet and Demoustier spoke with Digital Trends about crafting the film’s unique love story. They also reveal how their filmmaking collaboration began and open up about what Demoustier calls the “complicated, paradoxical process” of getting into the head of a character who refuses to be analyzed.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity purposes.
Digital Trends: The first thing I’m curious about is: How did you two meet, and how did that lead to Anaïs in Love?
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: We met back when I was writing my short film Pauline asservie, which was produced by Stéphane Demoustier, and when it came to casting the main character we both thought of Anaïs, who happens to be Stéphane’s sister. Anaïs was an actress that I admired very much, but I wasn’t really daring enough to ask her to take a part in it, but Stéphane encouraged me, so I reached out.
Anaïs read the script and seemed to like it, so we met for coffee and we got along very well. Our collaboration together on the short film was so wonderful that it was evident that we were going to continue to work together for a long time.
Anaïs is very scattered at the start of the film, but she always feels sure of herself. How did you two work together to ride that line between making her seem busy and messy, but also purposeful?
Anaïs Demoustier: I wasn’t so sure that she was going to be likable. That’s something that I did worry about at times. For the moments where her reactions were further away from me and my own personality, I really tried to go into her mind and tried to understand where she was coming from in order to be able to communicate the emotional transitions she makes throughout the film. As an actress, that’s what I did. In the process of doing it, I realized how much more pleasurable it is to play this kind of character. She has such a scandalous personality.
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: I think that the key to this character is the fact that she’s a young woman who follows her desire and it just so happens that there has to be collateral damage sometimes. I was interested in writing a comedy, and I knew that, because Anaïs was playing her, she was going to give the character a presence that was going to allow me to take her actions quite far while keeping her amiable. The idea was that she follows her desire and we follow her and that was a story that I trusted very much, and I trusted Anaïs to be able to find the right balance in that as a performer.
I think the film is one of the most interesting rom-coms I’ve seen in a long time. The way Anaïs falls in love with Emilie before even meeting her feels like an intentional riff on a typical movie meet-cute. Was it?
Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet: I’m not very familiar with the romantic comedy genre. It’s not something that I have watched a lot, so it’s not really something I had in mind during the creation of this film. But I did want to make a film about love, and I did want it to be a comedy, so all of those things are there. In terms of the duration of her introduction to Emilie, I think you’re correct that it’s an inversion.
You know, I would say that her first real encounter with Emilie is, of course, when she sees the image of her. But there’s this very important, pivotal moment that happens when Anaïs is in Emilie’s bathroom and sees Emilie’s things. The way that plays out is to your point: It’s their first real interaction so to say, and it’s an inversion. The progressive nature of this attraction is that it doesn’t begin as a physical attraction. It begins as an intellectual attraction and it’s the curiosity she feels as a result that leads Anaïs to Emilie.
Anaïs, how did you find your way into the character? She doesn’t have a lot of introspective moments in the film.
Anaïs Demoustier: Hmm, that’s true. It was a bit of a complicated, paradoxical process. For me, it was really trusting in Charline’s writing, which is such a motor for action that I was able to hold onto. That allowed me to be in this state of constant excess where she’s talking too much and she’s running too much.
It was a very physical process for me to get into the character, but once that was underway, the balance between her actions and her own self-awareness became sort of evident because I realized that somebody who is so external has to be balanced in some other, interior way.
Anaïs in Love hits theaters on April 29 and becomes available to stream on demand on May 6.
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