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  • TBC
  • Drama, Romance
  • 2005
  • 93 mins

Not Here To Be Loved

Not Here To Be Loved

Synopsis

Love unexpectedly blossoms in a man's autumn years as he realises that it takes two to tango

About

The intimate themes of amour fou (crazy love) have formed the basis of innumerable French films, but Not Here To Be Loved is even more minimal and contained than most. After his debut Hometown Blues (1999), director Stéphane Brizé goes back to basics for his second feature, crafting a finely honed drama of minute observations and nuanced gestures rather than pyrotechnic confrontations or broad-stroke actions. Once again the director's concern is second chances.

As his 51st birthday approaches, divorcee Jean-Claude (Chesnais) seems destined to spend the rest of his life alone and loveless. As a bailiff in a family firm, his only day-to-day contact is serving court orders to people who hate and fear him. His weekly visits to his monstrous father (Wilson) at a nursing home are marked by resentment and aggression, while he struggles to hold a conversation with his adult son (Couton) who has reluctantly joined the business.

Yet Jean-Claude still yearns for something different - and when his doctor suggests that his heart needs exercise, Jean-Claude crosses over from his office to the tango school opposite, where he meets thirtysomething Françoise (Consigny), who had long ago been babysat by his mother. She also has a longing for change as she drifts inexorably towards marriage to self-absorbed would-be novelist Thierry (Abelanski). With little in common besides resigned disappointment, Jean-Claude and Françoise dance up a restrained sort of romance together - but is it too late for them to overcome their strong sense of fatalism?

More a film of suppressed longing than actual passion, the central image in Not Here To Be Loved involves Jean-Claude's father (played by the amazing Wilson) peeking out of the window at his departing son, hoping as well as fearing that Jean-Claude will return his gaze. This suspended moment where love, though left unexpressed, is achingly palpable, finds its echo in the scenes where Jean-Claude himself is shown spying through his curtains on the tango school. Both men are haunted by unspoken feelings, but while the father will die, bitter and rejected, before his secrets can be known, the son lifts the family curse by venturing outside his self-imposed confines and embracing strangers in the dance of life.

So Not Here To Be Loved is a sort of romantic comedy in x-ray, both bittersweet and as much concerned with pathologies of the soul as with affairs of the heart. Like Lost In Translation (2003) without the exotic Tokyo setting, or like The Consequences Of Love (2004) without the gangster thrills, Brizé's film is nothing if not spare, yet it deals with some of the grandest of human themes, including family, mortality and late-blooming love.

And while the relationships that it portrays can be painfully bleak, they are also, in their dry way, very funny - not least because of the warmth that Chesnais and Consigny bring to their characters' chilly predicaments. You may not be convinced that this rather incompatible couple has much of a future together, but part of the film's power is to leave a scintilla of hope where previously there was only despair.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Hélène Alexandridis, Georges Wilson, Anne Benoit, Geneviève Mnich, Cyril Couton, Lionel Abelanski, Olivier Claverie, Patrick Chesnais, Anne Consigny
  • Director: Stéphane Brizé
  • Writer: Stéphane Brizé, Juliette Sales
  • Producer: Miléna Poylo, Gilles Sacuto
  • Photographer: Claude Garnier
  • Composer: Eduardo Makaroff, Christoph H Müller

In a nutshell

The small scale of this melancholic romantic comedy is offset by its big themes. Bleak, well observed and dryly funny.

by Anton Bitel

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