Private Fears In Public Places

Private Fears In Public Places


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Its French title translating simply as 'Hearts', Private Fears In Public Places follows several loosely connected individuals searching for emotional fulfillment. Dan and Nicole are on the verge of breaking up. Dan's favourite bartender, Lionel, is struggling to cope with his aged father's physical and mental disintegration as his father is, in turn, frustrated by his disappointment with his son. They employ a carer, Charlotte, who also works at the estate agent serving Nicole, where her colleague Thierry finds himself increasingly besotted with her. Thierry lives with his sister, Gaëlle, who lies about having a busy social life and is secretly looking for love.

Alan Ayckbourn's intimate drama translates beautifully to a snowbound Paris, where the gorgeous but empty apartments which Thierry tries to sell themselves become characters, echoing the experiences of the human protagonists. In clumsier hands this might have been yet another flimsy drama about a group of people longing for romance, an empty soap opera, but Alain Resnais' astute handling gradually illuminates those human interiors and shows us much more going on.

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Central to the story is Charlotte's devout Christian faith. Although she finds herself surrounded by challenges, her Bible gives her a point of focus which the other characters must seek in different places. It makes a change to see a film in which such faith is neither taken for granted nor treated as extreme and either threatening or comic. Charlotte's very unusual way of bringing comfort and illumination to others will doubtless shock some Christian viewers, but it makes perfect sense for her as a character in a story where secrecy is a central thread in everyone's lives.

With so many secrets, it's not surprising that there are also many misunderstandings, and much of this film unfolds as a comedy of manners. Often the jokes are cruel, and not everyone can expect a happy ending. This is a story more concerned with the journey than with the destination, a story which examines the processes by which we learn about ourselves. It develops very subtly in places and viewers may have to look past their initial reactions to discern what's really going on. The naivete of the characters at times conceals a much more insightful script. It's to Resnais' credit that he hasn't tried to push his points home more aggressively. This delightful, perfectly balanced film will reward all those who are prepared to watch it with their eyes truly open.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2007
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Several interconnected people search for emotional fulfillment during a Parisian winter.
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Director: Alain Resnais

Writer: Jean-Michel Ribes, based on the play by Alan Ayckbourn.

Starring: Sabine Azéma, Lambert Wilson, André Dussollier, Pierre Arditi, Laura Morante, Isabelle Carré

Year: 2006

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: France, Italy


CFF 2007

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