Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"There is complexity at work, however, as Sachs and Zacharias hold these toxic associations up to the light." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

A love triangle with a twist offers shape to the latest relationship drama from Ira Sachs, co-writen with his regular collaborator Mauricio Zacharias. Tomas (Franz Rogowski) is a high maintenance film director. At the start of the film, he tells his actor: “This is a transition moment, but you’re making it into a drama moment.” A sentiment that is a signpost for Sachs’ entire film.

It soon emerges that almost every moment is a “drama moment” for Tomas. When his husband Martin (played with customary fragile delicacy by Ben Whishaw) leaves the film’s wrap party early, Tomas decides on an apparent whim to first dance with, then sleep with Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a young woman who is hot off a break up.

While that might sound like the “drama moment”, it's not even the emotional equivalent of the nursery slopes for Tomas, who immediately goes home and declares to Martin: “I had sex with a woman. Can I tell you about it?” If this makes Tomas sound toxic, this is merely the start of a story that plays out as a series of this narcissist’s “drama moments” as he flits between Martin and Agathe, who largely indulge his behaviour.

All of which is likely to make Sachs’ film divisive. Many audiences will find Tomas’ manipulative behaviour so unpleasant that, unlike Martin and Agathe, they don’t want to spend another moment with him and can’t fathom why they would either - although Rogowski brings out the sort of inner patheticness of the character rather than playing him as a deliberately scheming bad guy. Some will also find the lived-in-the-moment nature of the film off-putting - although hints of Martin and Agathe’s lives are shown, they are by the very nature of the focus on Tomas, just characters in his eternal drama, who he thinks he can position to suit himself.

There is complexity at work, however, as Sachs and Zacharias hold these toxic associations up to the light for us to see the ways that couples can become so accustomed to constant bickering they are unaware of it, like the old wives’ tale about the frog being slowly boiled alive as the water heats impercetibly. Sachs also doesn’t hold back in showing the importance of the physicality of both relationships either, serving up equal opportunities erotic sex, with the bedroom the one place where Tomas truly delivers. In the end, whether you - or, for that matter Martin or Agathe - love or hate Tomas or not is irrelevant, Sachs suggests, as he’s the sort whose freewheeling momentum will carry him forward no matter what.

Reviewed on: 20 Aug 2023
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A married man cheats on his husband with a woman... then tells him about it.
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Levan Tskhovrebadze ***1/2

Director: Ira Sachs

Writer: Mauricio Zacharias

Starring: Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw, Adèle Exarchopoulos

Year: 2023

Runtime: 91 minutes

Country: US

Streaming on: MUBI

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