Anaïs in Love is released in cinemas nationwide on August 19th.
Sometimes ten minutes is all it takes to paint a vivid portrait of the lead character in any film, and Anaïs in Love is a perfect example of this. Writer/Director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet wastes no time introducing us to the whirlwind that is Anaïs, played brilliantly by Anaïs Demoustier, as she hurries through Paris with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. Anaïs is late for a meeting with her landlord in an apartment where she hasn’t paid rent for two months. When she arrives, the landlord is already waiting, but Anaïs isn’t prepared to give them a moment to speak, as she talks over them while changing her dress and discussing her recent break-up with Raoul (Christophe Montenez).
As Anaïs spills her life story to her landlord, whether she wishes to hear it or not, it’s almost as if she has no pause button and no understanding of the other person in the room. She barely takes a breath before rushing back out of the apartment for a drinks event she is already late for, an event that will initiate a love triangle that wouldn’t feel out of place in a classic screwball comedy.
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Anaïs’ energetic, vivacious and selfish behaviour continues as she arrives at the party, the bouquet of flowers now worse for wear; here, she meets Daniel (Denis Podalydès), a man more than twice her age who is only too happy to help her carry her bike up to the sixteenth floor. Its clear Anaïs is not sexually attracted to Daniel. Still, he is interesting, and she has never been with an older man, so she enters into a brief affair with Daniel only to become infatuated with his author wife, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). But is Anaïs’ desire for Emilie rooted in love, obsession or a calculated need for personal growth?
In many ways, Bourgeois-Tacquet’s film portrays an unsettled youth not yet at one with the world they inhabit. After all, Anaïs seems to stumble in and out of relationships with little thought for those around her, basing her decisions solely on a hyperactive need for something new. For all the charm, there is a darkness in Anaïs’ behaviour; this is never more evident than when she meets with her ex Raoul. Here we see Anaïs casually drop into conversation that she’s pregnant and plans to have an abortion. There is no discussion and no appraisal of Raoul’s feelings, just a chirpy announcement before moving on. Raoul responds, “You don’t realise what human interaction is!” He is right; Anaïs seems oblivious to the feelings of others. But why?
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Some have commented that Anaïs is a perfect reflection of a constantly moving generation of millennials who grew up in a new world of social media posts, instant entertainment, likes and endless selfies, and it’s true that there are elements of this in Anaïs’ personality. However, to suggest that all millennials act like Anaïs is a massive disservice to an entire generation. Others have suggested that Anaïs in Love is an unconventional coming-of-age romantic comedy. However, each perspective ignores the deep themes of sexuality and identity at the heart of Anaïs in Love.
Early in proceedings, Anaïs casually drops into conversation with her landlord that she hasn’t found the right woman before correcting herself and continuing to talk about her troubles in love. Her sexual relationships with men feel forced, uneasy and void of passion; she doesn’t even want to sleep next to them after sex. Is it, therefore, possible that Anaïs hasn’t yet found her true love because she hasn’t fully accepted her attraction to women?
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Unlike the men she plays with, like a cat with a mouse, Anaïs desire for Emilie is not rooted in a fleeting interest; it is a genuine curiosity and passion. Here Anaïs’ encounters with Emilie ripple with the electricity of first love and self-discovery. In Emilie’s presence, Anaïs transforms into a different woman, one who is more considered vulnerable and reserved. For both women, their brief encounter is an act of rebirth. However, for Anaïs, it is also her first real experience of heartbreak as the barriers she has built since childhood topple at the hands of an older and wiser woman.
Many will point to the comedic similarities with Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World. But Anaïs in Love also owes much to Luca Guadagnino’s, Call Me By Your Name (2017) and Todd Haynes, Carol (2015). For example, the summer party where Anaïs and Emilie lock eyes during the Kim Carnes classic ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ ripples with the same sexual energy as Elio and Oliver’s dance floor scene. Meanwhile, the final hotel rendezvous between Anaïs and Emilie carries a similar beat to Carol and Therese’s final encounter.
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Anaïs in Love never seeks to provide the answers the audience may desire as the sun comes down on Anaïs and Emilie’s love affair, leaving the door ajar for the viewer to decide what comes next. Equally, Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet never allows us to fully inhabit the mind of Anaïs, her character as endearing as she is infuriating. Instead, we are offered a complex yet breezy snapshot of a woman attempting to find herself. The result is a genuinely charming and visually delightful film that asks us to explore what makes the lovable and infuriating Anaïs tick as she bounces from person to person in an engaging, sun-drenched romantic comedy.
A genuinely charming and visually delightful film that asks us to explore what makes the lovable and infuriating Anaïs tick as she bounces from person to person in an engaging, sun-drenched romantic comedy.