It’s a coincidence (or fate?!) seeing this film following a revisit of Eyes Wide Shut, which jarringly sobers us to the reality that our senses of control are false, feelings are dynamic, and we can never predict where ours and others’ fidelities will shift to tomorrow, what we or others will realize we need or want in the next chapter, peeling back onion layers of revelations with cognitive and emotional tools. This film stretches Mouret’s core themes to their limits, in what I think is his headiest film, to spin a web of chronicles about the schemas we adopt to cope with sensations like love and rejection, confidence and inadequacy, that are impenetrable from any psychological skills. It’s also his most self-reflexive film, a multi-faceted narrative about how our own collected stories are what make life worth living. A character at the start declares that he wants to write modern stories about “feeling”, something Mouret has spent his career doing, identifying how we attempt to make the abstract tangible and grow as a result of these experiences. It’s so wonderful that these characters have their stories, just as it is that we have our own, but it’s a gift that Mouret can create art to share these with us, to help us make sense of our own narratives. This social process- directly, or incredibly via cinematic consumption- is what life, and art, is all about.
This is also Mouret’s most ‘Woody Allen’ film (complete with a nod to Crimes and Misdemeanors with its bifurcated accounts, where one story involves editing a film- which posits philosophies that directly challenge the characters’ emotional reactions onscreen in hilarious contrasts), imbuing Allen’s ethereal romanticism with Desplechin-y convoluted layers of narrative drowned in philosophical and psychological paradoxes. The film is like a series of shorts a la Tout le monde a raison spliced together, yielding sexual and romantic dynamics, spiritual awakenings bursting bubbles of obsessive anxieties by finding beauty as truth in the mundane, skepticism on how to approach the social world as overwhelming, but communicated in a fleeting, exuberant manner that treats life as sublime even when it hurts.
This presentation is only manageable from the protection of an objective lens to frame the story, and Mouret finds more of his typical humor examining the belief systems that keep us at a distance socially and romantically, born from insecurities that cause us to overthink and self-destruct against the grain of our desires (the dissection of a ‘sigh’ between partners is a blast here, Mouret doubling down on his observations for how our fragile selves evaluate behavior ironically in intimacies with those we can’t read). Of course actual honest communication is seen as a heavenly gift when one breaks from their own introverted perspective. It's classic Mouret, making a romantic comedy sourced in the space of individualism- our inescapable neurotic pits of angst and subjective perspective as truths, trying to bridge outside of ourselves to another but gravitated to doing so on our terms, naturally rooted in the limited scope of our capabilities.
Mouret imbues another favorite theme in the question of 'fate'- of posturing at the concept of fate to explain what is too perfect for this world. On several occasions Mouret manages to actualize this “feeling” framed in gorgeous shots, my favorite being Jenna Thiam as Sandra emerging into the barely lit darkness, thirsty for a glass of water at the same time Maxime is- the surrogate view from his position freezes time like these moments seem to do in real life, bringing forth a sign of the spiritual in the form of flesh, inexplicable but present and attainable. Of course, this meditative liberating moment then transitions into an overthinking mechanical lovemaking session where Maxime removes himself from the present to obsessively engage sexually the way his friend told him to!
Per usual, the characters are all well-meaning, good people who are genuinely trying to do right even if they’re caught up in themselves and not wholly conscious to how fear clouds their perspectives and defines their personal truths. The desire to control out of fear, to use reason and willpower to fight transcendental connection, is relatable but never mean-spirited. We take risks when playing social roles without being able to foresee the consequences, and in the most recycled thematic Mouret segment, a role-playing story sparks authentic feeling from inauthentic pretending.
For the all the comedy there are some stories rooted in deep tragedy, ones where we become resigned to isolate ourselves by choice or by force, with the optimistic resilience that we can find warmth in the possibilities outside of our narcissisms: anti-possession, unconditional self-love and forgiveness, choice to love on our own terms. Best of all, this revelation from Louise is also inspired by art- ironically from the same philosophical documentary from earlier, that contrasted feelings in the opposite direction toward dysregulation from a character unwilling to abandon her terms of endearment, but now inspires someone to 'let go' and find poise in generous love, that gives to the self by giving to others (I love the line, “what you think it selfless isn’t all that selfless”).