Just A Sigh

Just A Sigh


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

In Jérôme Bonnell's jaunting Just A Sigh (Le Temps De L'Aventure), the winsome Emmanuelle Devos plays Alix, who catches the eye of a stranger played by Gabriel Byrne, a combination of the mysterious and the tangible, and decides to follow up on the first alluring glances. Escape from everyday life becomes a tempting promise, while the characters overcome sheepishness and shame.

A theatre actress, Alix makes a quick journey between performances in Calais to hop on a train to Paris. On board she meets Doug (Byrne), a perplexing Englishman who takes her on a trip down a different track.

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Taking the cue from Yasujiro Ozu, central characters never show up on screen, while others are placed as obstacles, classic threshold guardians, who need to be overcome, as in a Kafka tale. In Just A Sigh they can be tricked with apple pastries. One particular Cerberus looks a bit like Michael Haneke (Rudolph played by Gilles Privat) and protects the underworld with conversations about national debt. "I think cinema is to hide, before it is to show things," Bonnell told me at this year's Tribeca Film Festival premiere.

Alix performs in Ibsen's Lady From The Sea in Calais, but we never see her in the play. The camera follows her walking onto the stage, a shot similar to that of Ryan Gosling, at the start of The Place Beyond The Pines, about to perform a motorcycle stunt. Her stunt also has a daredevil quality that might cost her the life she has known. In an interview, Emmanuelle Devos told me how much for her the Ibsen play informs the theme: "It's about a woman who has to choose between two men and two lives, just like my character."

Devos equips her Alix in wonderland with first-rate courage to overcome humiliation, as she stumbles through Paris, the place where she lives, like a tourist, or a sailor on shore leave. Things don't work as planned and after an appallingly funny audition which brought her back to Paris for the day in the first place, she decides to go stalking at a funeral.

Gabriel Byrne gives Doug a breath of the imaginary. "When I was five I had an enormous crush on my brother's girlfriend… I drank a glass of gin and threw up on her shoes," he tells Alix to encourage her to stalk him some more. His crepuscular unease gives the love scenes the instability they desire and deserve. Alix rightfully answers a cliché with a cliché. He says " I love your jaw - it's a gregarious jaw." She says, not in the same scene, though, "I wish I were dead and Norwegian."

An International music festival is happening all over the streets of Paris, while Alix visits her sister who lives in an enchanted garden in the middle of the city and who behaves like a weary Hollywood wife.

Just A Sigh gives a lot of options to the viewers - it is a movie that lets you be the judge of inappropriate behaviors and risks worth taking. Bonnell's characters are loaded with longing and seem to be hardly aware of it until the meeting with a stranger on a train reveals the urgency of adventure.

Reviewed on: 02 Jul 2013
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An actress meets a stranger on a train and conceives of a different life.

Director: Jérôme Bonnell

Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Emmanuelle Devos, Judith Rémy, Roland David, Sébastien Pouderoux, Jean-Charles Clichet, Eddie Chignara

Year: 2013

Runtime: 104 minutes

Country: France

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