Film Review: Lover For A Day

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In association with the GFT

How to be French according to Lover For A Day:

1) Ensure that the streets, cafes, squares and restaurants of Paris are uncannily deserted anytime you go outside for a walk.

2) Have an unseen female voice occasionally narrating significant sections of your life, anticipating inevitable regret.

3) Be incredibly beautiful, with a night’s sky of freckles across your cheeks, framed in frequently occurring close-ups.

4) Fall in and out of love. Be loved, betrayed and disappointed.    

In the opening scene of Philippe Garrel’s romantic drama Lover For A Day, the sounds of moans coming from the mouth of a young woman (Louise Chevillotte) having sex in a bathroom transform gradually into the gasps of another woman (Esther Garrel) sobbing on the pavement – crying so much that she is unable to breathe. Eventually, these two women end up in the same apartment in Paris, the former as the girlfriend of its owner, Gilles (Éric Caravaca), the latter as his daughter, returning to live with Gilles after being kicked out of her boyfriend’s apartment. These passionate first scenes set the tone for Garrel’s alluring black-and-white piece and it exploration of loyalty and infidelity.  

With hardly any other characters in the film, all emotional emphasis lies on the triangle between Gilles, his girlfriend Ariane and his daughter Jeanne who are, it should be noted, exactly the same age – oh, and Gilles and Ariane met while she was his student. While there is negative tension at first between Jeanne and Ariane, they grow slowly closer by sharing secrets, experiences and deep conversations. The latter are especially compelling, with thought-provoking comments on the comfort of relationships, the ways in which women endure heartbreak, and the joy of sex with no strings attached.

Cinematographer Renato Berta has elegantly crafted the still, often close-up shots of the film’s actors, with a focus on expression and intensity. A favourite is Ariane and her ‘lover for a day’ lying naked on a bed, their skin white as porcelain, a cover draped conveniently over their waist, like a classical painting of infidelity. Attention is frequently paid to the everyday parts of life, such as the stairwell of the apartment block or light flooding in on a university corridor, each presented beautifully in the detailed black-and-white medium. Yet while these shots are often mesmerising, and the themes and characters they portray are complex and intriguing, overall there is simply not enough within Garrel’s film to excite the viewer, as his characters eventually drift too distant to care about.

[Aike Jansen]

This film will screen at the GFT from the 19th to the 21st of January. Tickets are available here.

The GFT also offers a free 15-25 discount card for students, available here



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