A Faithful Man: You Play the Loving Woman, by Scott Nye
Louis Garrel’s new feature – his second as director – will doubtlessly raise comparisons to the work his father Philippe has been churning out for at least the past decade. Like Lover for a Day, In the Shadow of Women, and Jealousy, A Faithful Man is about a group of people who can’t seem to love one another the right way, or themselves much at all. And like two of those three movies by the elder Garrel, A Faithful Man was cowritten by legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière.
Carrière cemented his reputation almost immediate, writing multiple films for and with Pierre Étaix, Luis Buñuel, Louis Malle, and Milos Forman within the first decade of his career, later collaborating with Jean-Luc Godard, Nagisa Oshima, Andrzej Wajda, and Johnathan Glazer, among others. Lately his work has been less ambitious, but no less rigorous, and A Faithful Man bears that familiar Carrière stamp most of all.
Within a 72-minute film, it becomes easy to quickly give away what might be considered spoilers, but loosely we can say that Garrel stars under his own direction as Abel, a man who’s still in love with ex-girlfriend Marianne (Laetitia Casta) after she ran off with his best friend, and who is in turn more overtly desired by that same friend’s younger sister Eve (Lily-Rose Depp). All three say they know what they want, via well-deployed voiceover that fills in gaps while leaving plenty for the audience to doubt, only to fall out of step with those desires the moment they are at all consummated. Sometimes it is better to want than to have.
Garrel’s direction is not nearly as fine as his father’s, the widescreen frame feeling at times out of step with the very shaky handheld camerawork. Cinematographer Irina Lubtchansky is too fine a cinematographer to deliver an overtly ugly frame – like many in her country and field, she favors bright, saturated colors that create a slight halo-esque luminescence in even the most mundane spaces – but that doesn’t always mean the shots themselves are graceful. Oftentimes the scene feels too rushed as a result, though plenty others have a patient grace that lets the afternoon air settle into a bedroom that should hold peace, but in which we intuit restlessness.
Fortunately, Garrel remains a very fine actor. He has a natural tendency towards thoughtful indecision, being at once guileless and introspective. Depp showed in Planetarium that she was more than just a nepotism appointment, and she continues to show great vulnerability, none of the studied self-awareness I often associate with the children (and especially the fairly young children) of famous actors or directors. Here she is called on more often to be pathetic and flighty than admirable or even sexy, and she plays the pitiable notes with sensitivity, letting Eve roam about completely unaware of how strangely she comes off. I’m not very familiar with Casta’s work, though I’d like to be, her read on Marianne is perfect, retaining the mystery she holds for Abel while giving just enough to suggest a richer inner life than he can perceive.