Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"Garcia... takes the socio-economic circumstances as the core and builds her elegant thriller around it." | Photo: Courtesy of Venice Film Festival

Nicole Garcia’s Lovers (Amants), co-written with Jacques Fieschi, starring Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney, Benoît Magimel, and a brilliant score by Grégoire Hetzel is a highlight of New York’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema. Body language tells us more than the words, as was the case with Marion Cotillard in Garcia’s From The Land Of the Moon (Mal De Pierres).

Lisa (Stacy Martin) and Simon (Pierre Niney) are haunted by a shared experience in their past when he was a high-end dealer of drugs and she was studying to be in the hospitality business. When they meet again by chance, she is married to Léo Redler (Benoît Magimel), who claims to be an insurance underwriter in the travel hospitality field. While they are vacationing by the Indian Ocean, her husband’s goal is for them to adopt a child. Rich and prone to collecting, Léo had picked Lisa out from a coat-check job and married her quickly, as though she were an object to own.

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Magimel, who in Rebecca Zlotowski’s An Easy Girl (Une fille facile) gave a very socially conflicted character so much nuance, also convinces us in Lovers that there is much more to this man than meets the eye at first glance. His performance invites audiences to ponder beauty and beast constellations of pity and power, longing and distrust. The males are the ones here displaying shoe envy; they live in a world where competition is everything and how their life looks to the outside world is more important than how it feels being in it.

Garcia, more than many of the other directors featured in this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, takes the socio-economic circumstances as the core and builds her elegant thriller (cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne of Mathieu Amalric’s Barbara, The Blue Room, and Etienne Comar’s Django) around it. No wonder Simon and Lisa early on are seen watching Kubrick’s The Killing. Lisa is not the first woman for whom survival comes at a price.

The filmmaker is wonderfully subtle when the concierge at the hotel in Madagascar asks if Lisa would like the “Chinese massage” as she already had the “Thai massage”. All the luxury means nothing and this is the precise moment her former lover appears. Lisa sleeps on a boat while her husband is diving. Limp, like a tossed towel, wrapped in a flimsy green shirt, the utter exhaustion of the life and lies she chose catch up with her.

Next day on the bed she repeats the body posture, that of a dead-tired dog. Back home in their house in Geneva, Lisa is dressed in black like a burglar in her own home, her bracelet resembles a handcuff. Léo refused a child with a deformed foot without telling her. “He gave me a life,” she tells Simon, who once back in her life, stays close.

“Do you want me to kill him?” Lisa says in Noir fashion as Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity encroaches on the plot. Sterling Hayden’s early warning from the screen was clearly not enough.

Reviewed on: 12 Mar 2021
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Lovers packshot
An inseparable couple are forced apart following a crime... and meet again by chance three years later.

Director: Nicole Garcia

Writer: Jacques Fieschi, Nicole Garcia

Starring: Pierre Niney, Stacy Martin, Benoît Magimel, Roxane Duran, Mohamed Makhtoumi, Severino Negri, Mohamed Badissy, Magne-Håvard Brekke, Liberato Candiello, Jordano Ceresa, Jake Francois

Year: 2020

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: France

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