Anaïs in Love is a film about a woman constantly in motion. Its opening scene follows its young heroine, Anaïs (played by Anaïs Demoustier), as she rushes through Paris to get back to the apartment where her exasperated landlord waits. Once there, Anaïs has no time for instructions on how to install a fire alarm (or pay her landlord the money she’s owed) because she has somewhere else to be — namely, a party she’s already late for.
The film follows Anaïs as she bounces — often at full speed — from place to place, conversation to conversation, and affair to affair, and the camera rarely ever stops or slows down. In fact, even in the occasional moments when Anaïs pauses to make a decision or ruminate on a difficult development, writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet usually keeps her camera in motion, slowly gliding toward and around her driven heroine, anxious to see what she’s going to do next.
Fortunately, Anaïs in Love never runs out of ways to keep its eponymous figure busy, which means she always has something to do and say — even in the moments when it’d probably be best if she didn’t. It’s a film that, much like the woman it follows so dutifully, can exasperate and charm with each turn it takes. But there’s also something that’s powerfully assuring about watching a character who will follow her interests and impulses so confidently, especially when they lead her toward a romance that surprises and delights with the pleasures it offers.
That’s precisely what happens after Anaïs sees a painting of Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), the partner of a man Anaïs has begun a lackluster affair with. Drawn toward Emilie’s image, Anaïs begins to read Emilie’s novels and, in one of the film’s best scenes, smells and holds her cosmetic products. Each action just makes Anaïs feel a greater attraction to Emilie, and after a chance meeting in the street lives up to her expectations, Anaïs follows Emilie on a writer’s retreat in the hopes of further developing their relationship.
What follows is a bubbly and charming courtship that carries more than its fair share of underlying passion and intensity. Demoustier brings a breathless, feisty energy to the film, playing Anaïs as a woman who makes you realize just how limiting the term “likability” really is. Opposite her, Tedeschi plays Emilie as a calm and contemplative woman, one who is fascinated and flattered in equal measure by Anaïs’ very obvious seduction efforts. At one point, the two performers lower and raise their energies to meet each other’s during a sensual dance scene that is set to Bette Davis Eyes.
Their romance is brilliantly controlled and paced by Bourgeois-Tacquet. The writer-director’s script is funny and wry in the way it should be, but far more subversive and intelligent than it makes itself out to be. The film is also full of ingenious touches and simple but effective visual gags, like the moment when Emilie’s partner (and Anaïs’ former lover) shows up wearing a blue blazer and red shirt in the same scene where Emilie is wearing a blue dress and Anaïs a red one. Noé Bach’s cinematography, meanwhile, makes the film look bright and warm in a way that just further accentuates its summer romance plot.
In other words, it’s a visually pleasing film to watch, which makes sense given how focused Bourgeois-Tacquet’s script is on the importance of pursuing one’s desires. At times, that focus results in Anaïs in Love trying your patience, and not all of its various detours lead to interesting outcomes. But Anaïs in Love is also a film that understands what can happen when a person’s decision to pursue their desires actually pays off. Sometimes, the risk really is worth the reward.
Anaïs in Love will be released in theaters on April 29 and will become available on demand on May 6.
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