REVIEW: Les amours d’Anaïs [Anaïs in Love] [2021]

Rating: 8 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 98 minutes
    Release Date: September 15th, 2021 (France) / April 29th, 2022 (USA)
    Studio: Haut et Court / Magnolia Pictures
    Director(s): Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
    Writer(s): Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet

Everything is possible if you want it.

There’s nothing discreet about thirty-year old Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier). We meet her as she’s running to greet her landlady. Anaïs is two months late on rent and her live-in boyfriend has moved out, yet she’s unafraid to let the woman graciously allowing her to stay despite no real evidence that she won’t have to throw her out in a week know this agreed upon conversation is cutting into a party for which she’s also late attending. Candid to a fault, this graduate student would appear manipulative if she wasn’t so earnestly genuine in her curiosity and innocence. Anaïs isn’t pulling strings to get what she wants, she’s simply unable to pretend that which she wants doesn’t trump everything else … including that which she used to want first.

It’s a brilliantly and vibrantly written character that first-time feature writer/director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet admits is as much a mirror of herself as the actor portraying the role. Anaïs is a woman ready to conquer the present by any means necessary at the expense of the future. She wants to love and be loved, but she questions whether her experiences with love are real or not since none of them last or force her to try and ensure they do. Her ex-boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez) says it’s because she lacks the social skills and empathy to be in a relationship, but we learn quite early it’s because she’s unwilling to pretend. Because, as we’ll soon discover, the right person will become all she can think about. So why compromise?

Is it Raoul? Her mother (Anne Canovas) caught in a relapsing cancer diagnosis? The older gentleman she meets at the forementioned party, Daniel (Denis Podalydès)? No. The first is always an afterthought. The second’s health scares Anaïs to the point of complete avoidance. And the third is too selfishly attuned to the life he’s built the past decade to let their affair be anything more than a fleeting physical tryst. When Anaïs decides to look up the woman Daniel refuses to leave for her, however, something knew is found. Yes, there’s an attraction based on Emilie’s (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) appearance, but also spiritually through her writing. It’s as though she knows her—that Daniel cheated on his partner with a younger version of the same. The infatuation begins.

The title Les amours d’Anaïs [Anaïs in Love] deals with all, though. The film is about Anaïs being in love no matter where it moves or how passionate it proves. Just because that state of loving remains consistent doesn’t also mean its hold won’t fluctuate. Her feelings for Raoul won’t stop her from calmly and pragmatically explaining to him that she’s pregnant and already has an abortion scheduled despite his wanting a dialogue. Her adoration for her mother won’t stop her from abruptly leaving without a word upon learning of the diagnosis. And her need of shelter (once she sublets her apartment to a Korean couple to help pay the rent) doesn’t prevent her from ultimately walking out on Daniel when he explains he’s not uprooting his life.

She’s used to disappointments and has always been able to bounce back quickly thanks to her innate ability to get others to want to do things for her. Those close enough to truly know her understand that she’ll eventually flake out on them, but they also understand there’s never malicious intent. She’s beautiful and kind and funny—an electric whirlwind of life that anyone who meets her wishes to remain in orbit. At one point she realizes she doesn’t have the money to pay for a room only to have a stranger (Jean-Charles Clichet‘s Yoann) say he can find odd jobs for her to do to pay for it instead. He enjoys her company so much that he ultimately does her work on top of his.

That same draw pulls Emilie in too. Unaware that Anaïs has already slept with Daniel, she can’t help letting her into her life upon arriving unannounced at a writers’ symposium. The young woman’s allure captivates Emilie in a way none of the other guests could. Anaïs is an outlier who neither plays by the rules nor breaks them. She’s instead a master at allowing others to bend them for her benefit. The question is thus whether Emilie will become as infatuated with her as she is and whether she’ll act on it if so. A dance of sorts commences that’s as sensual as it is authentically grown, their actions daring the other to make the first move no matter how much they wish they could on their own.

And while that heightened sexuality and seeming love triangle might hint at suspense or drama, know that Bourgeois-Tacquet isn’t interested in such generically pedestrian thrills. What drama she does inject into the proceedings is less about our external enjoyment of the scenario than the internal impact on Anaïs’ identity. As such, she lets the film unfold as a subdued, yet impressively funny tale populated by flawed yet benevolent characters who never become so absorbed in their own self-importance to put something as silly as revenge above their universal and human yearning for happiness. Any display of anger is instantly mitigated by a white lie or breathlessly candid admission too disarming to maintain the tiniest bit of rage. To see Anaïs smile is to smile yourself. It’s unavoidable.

Demoustier is wonderful as a result. She must be to let this character create the effortless hold she has on those around her. Anaïs knows what it is she wants and won’t compromise to get it. Maybe it ensures she never finishes anything, but it also guarantees she doesn’t waste any more time than is necessary to learn the current path she’s on is without merit. Watching her get tripped up with Emilie is therefore nothing if not surprisingly real. Her mere presence puts that same look on Anaïs’ face that is usually reserved for those interacting with her instead. And Tedeschi is just as honest and exciting—the two building a bond that resonates deeper than lust or age could destroy. Love is too important for sensibility.

[1] Anaïs Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi in ANAIS IN LOVE, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Les Films Pelléas. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
[2] Anaïs Demoustier and Denis Podalydès in ANAIS IN LOVE, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Karl Colonnier. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
[3] Anaïs Demoustier and Christophe Montenez in ANAIS IN LOVE, a Magnolia Pictures release. © Les Films Pelléas. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

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