“When I really love someone, I don’t notice others,” utters Anais (Anais Demoustier) to her affair partner while laying in bed together. It’s ominous wording for what’s to come for the protagonist in writer/director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s new romantic comedy Anais In Love. It is similar to Jochum Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, but while that film feels grounded, Anais has its head in the clouds. However, that isn’t a massive ding on the movie as the over-optimism is used to its advantage as the character breaks numerous boundaries and hearts in her quest to find the one person who will become her everything.
Anais is a hot mess. She’s chronically late to everything, two months behind on rent, several months late on the second part of her thesis project, pregnant with a baby she doesn’t want and doesn’t want the baby’s father either. Having a conversation with her is even more bizarre as she deliberately avoids the topic at hand to talk about herself. For example, a Korean couple comes to view her apartment for an Airbnb stay, and Anias proceeds to speak to them in French (they don’t understand French) and talk to them about her ability to love (they don’t care). That seems to be her goal in life—to find someone who doesn’t bore her, and she can love unconditionally and focuses on nothing else.
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She then meets Daniel (Denis Podalydès) at a party of mutual friends, and from there, they start a passionless affair. He likes Anais but acknowledges things won’t last because he’s an older man and in a relationship with famed author Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). As Daniel talks about Emillie, Anais becomes enamored with the thought of her. She’s intelligent, passionate, sophisticated, and lacks any awkwardness Anais’s previous partners held.
This launches the desire to meet Emillie in person, and a serendipitous encounter puts the duo in the same space where instant sparks fly between them. Anais’ curiosity turns into a slight obsession where she travels to a symposium in the French countryside with barely enough money for her stay, to be near Emilie, to become friends, and maybe more. But when Daniel shows up to the symposium out of the blue, will Anais get what she wants or go home empty-handed?
Anais In Love is a character study of a beautiful, ADHD, manic pixie dream girl that everyone fawns over, and her overbearing, reckless, selfish attitude somehow endears her to others. This also provides comic relief as the audience laughs at Anais instead of with her because she’s so in her own head that she doesn’t realize how awkward she is. The woman gets everything she wants without adversity which is cutesy, but does it make for a good story? Well, yes and no.
There is nothing to ground this story in reality. Never once did I think anything happening was realistic. Anais lives in a world where she can get constant extensions on paying her rent, skips out on her job without being fired, and practically lives for free in the French countryside getting away with paying less than half for her stay. BUT, it strangely adds to the charm of it all. Since I know Anais will win, do I want to see her end up with Emilie? Yes. Do I want to see two characters end up together despite the circumstances? Also yes. Is that what Bourgeois-Tacquet script gives us? Hell yes!
Anais and Emilie are the only couple that makes sense in this movie, and Demoustier and Tedeschi are a smoldering pair. They ooze sex appeal and charisma. Bourgeois-Tacquet intimately frames them with a series of close-ups and mid shots that accentuate the growing sexual tension between the women. The film’s last scene is simply magical as it’s the perfect blend of action, actors, and score that is the stuff romantic comedies are made of while understanding the bisexual experience.
Yeah, Anais gets everything she wants, but sometimes, it’s good to let women win. Understanding her pathos can take some work as the signs are subtle, and it can appear as if Anais doesn’t learn anything new, but that’s not the case. By the end, she’s working, writing, and more self-aware. Anais realizes what it feels like to lose and be rejected, albeit for a brief moment. By the conclusion, we get a woman who matured somewhat, and the catalyst for that was finding someone she could connect with beyond sex. Now that’s real Love.
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