wed 30/09/2020

A Faithful Man review - an atypical romance | reviews, news & interviews

A Faithful Man review - an atypical romance

A Faithful Man review - an atypical romance

French romantic comedy that both follows and breaks the rules

Pondering love: Louis Garrel and Lily Rose Depp in A Faithful Man

There were some early warning signs that A Faithful Man might be another box-ticking French romcom. The poster of two women kissing one man, his bemused look in the middle. The lethargic narration referencing childhood and the mysteries of the female mind. Here we go again.

There were some early warning signs that A Faithful Man might be another box-ticking French romcom. The poster of two women kissing one man, his bemused look in the middle. The lethargic narration referencing childhood and the mysteries of the female mind. Here we go again. But director, writer and star Louis Garrel  (pictured above left) subverts expectations just enough to make this French fancy stand out from the pack.

Abel (Garrel) is caught off guard by his girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta, pictured below right) when she announces she’s pregnant. For you see, it’s not his. It’s his friend Paul’s. And they’re getting married. In ten days. And Abel’s invited, if he wants. With a few words and doe eyes, Abel leaves and nine years pass. Then, when Paul dies suddenly in his sleep, Abel’s back in the game.

A Faithful Man isn't a romantic comedy in the traditional sense; it's surreal and questions the concept of romance. Marianne truly loves Abel, but also falls in love with other men. Abel loves Marianne, but more through habit than desire. And then there’s Eve (Lily-Rose Depp), Paul’s sister, who has fantasized over Abel for a decade, in love with the idea of him more than the man himself. Is anyone right? Is romance real at all?Louis Garrel and Laetitia Casta in A Faithful ManWhat the film does best is play with genre conventions. Flashbacks will be misremembered, one viewpoint will expose another’s as incomplete. There's also the mystery of Marianne's son, who continually warns Abel that she poisoned Paul. Is he a fantasist, or is his mother a murderer? And does that excite Abel more if she is?

The real issue is Garrel wants to have his cake and eat it, abiding by the very genre principles he undermines. Quirky twists in the tale never have a lasting effect, as each story beat lands towards a typical feel-good ending. There’s also an issue with how the women are written, either a hopeless romantic or a manipulative mystery. The occasional narration from Marianne and Eve goes someway to expand their personalities, but it never solves the issue.

Still, at a spritely 75 minutes, the film bounces along at an enjoyable pace. It has a genuinely wicked sense of humour and charming performances from the whole cast. Not the wholesale subversion it could’ve been, but a smarter take on your standard fare.

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters