The 62nd BFI Film Festival hit London earlier this month and I’ve been in heaven. Film after film after film. Some brilliant, some good and then some – not my cup of tea at all. But hey. I might have hated the Coen brothers’ new film, others probably loved it. The festival brought with it 225 films from 77 countries. I’ve attempted to see as many as possible – I really have. And you’re going to get my top picks shortly. But the most affecting? An Impossible Love.
I can’t stop thinking about it.
The film is a story of girl meets boy. Told from the perspective of their daughter who, many moons later, reflects on how her parents met and grew up together. Except they don’t grow up together. And this is no ordinary girl meets boy narrative. Because the boy, Philippe, played by the mysterious Niels Schneider, wants nothing to do with Rachel. He doesn’t say this outright to Rachel – no, no – that would be far too simple. Instead, he spends years of her life stringing her along, encouraging her to get pregnant and then toying with the idea of whether he wants to become a father to the child or not, and disappearing off to go on ‘holidays’ while refusing to return Rachel’s calls. The love, as the title says – is impossible. And you don’t know whether to be mad at Rachel or to feel sorry for her. Each time she meets with Philippe – his passive aggressive comments and subtle putdowns do nothing to sway her. ‘What a pushover’, you start to think. But then, in so many ways, you can see why she’s completely hooked. This man willingly risked getting her pregnant. He pops back into her life just when she needs him most. He lingers in the background when she’s feeling fragile.
And it gets worse. Boy, does it get worse. But this isn’t what I think of when I remember the film. I think of Virginie Efira, who plays Rachel, and her wonderfully unapologetic acting. Similar to my thoughts about Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, in my previous post about the film A Star is Born, Efira doesn’t try to take us down the garden path with this character. Rachel is head over heels in love with Philippe and she won’t make excuses for that. The daughter later asks her mother why she loved a man who was so awful to her. Why she hadn’t stayed with her first boyfriend who had actually treated her kindly. It’s a question that really stuck with me. We weave people’s bad behaviour into a kind of poetry – cliches – sentences. It’s like we’re reading from some kind of textbook of human life. ‘Oh, he just had a difficult time’. ‘She’s having a bad day’. ‘He’s a badass and girls like that’. So we write off the putdowns, the laughs, the not responding to calls. Why – and I’m really asking here – do people settle for this? ‘He used to be a player and then he met a girl who changed him’. But what about all the girls who went before? Isn’t that suggesting that those people didn’t deserve to be treated nicely?
Perhaps I loved how thought-provoking the film was more than its actual contents. But that would be casting aside things like my newfound admiration for French actress Efira. She made the film; her emotions were bubbling away at the surface at all times and I was constantly transfixed. It’s a nice reminder that while so many British and Hollywood films take up our attention at the cinemas and during our movie nights at home, there are so many other talented people around the world. Let’s not forget them. (Just FYI however – typical Hollywood movies are my fave and I hate people getting all worthy about films. But while we’re on the subject…..)
In more news, my other favourites from the film festival included:
More about them next week. Have a lovely weekend. And let me know if you watch anything that you enjoy!