Movie Review by Lisa Henshall
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe, Josephine Lebas-Joly
Director: Yann Samuell
This is a wonderfully complex, intelligent, funny, and intriguing film with more than a passing nod to the style of AMELIE. A black comedy with, at times, the flourish and style of a Tim Burton film (if he were French), the audience is swept through the many challenges of Julien and Sophie’s friendship, always resisting our expectations and never letting us become complacent. Director Yann Samuell was originally an animator but with this, his feature film debut, he proves he is an inspiring and accomplished director.
At 8 years old Julien (Guillaume Canet, THE BEACH) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard, BIG FISH) become childhood friends over a game of dares and a brightly painted tin depicting a merry-go-round. The one holding the tin challenges the other to complete a dare, once completed the other person can then set their own dare in return. The game starts with mischievous pranks as children – pulling the cloth off the table where the cake is at a family wedding – and lead onto more provocative dares when they become teenagers – Julien daring Sophie to attend her maths exam wearing her underwear on top of her normal clothes.
With their burgeoning, if undisclosed attraction forming, the tin continues to pass between them as they each start to push and pull the relationship, setting more and more twisted games as the tin box and the game of dares become the parameters by which they define their relationship. Indeed as they become adults, any life outside of the dares becomes unbearable for them – Julien day-dreams at a set of traffic lights that he has to dispose of a body in the back of his car… anything rather than going to work. The dares are more dangerous, more twisted, and still nothing ever seems to be enough for them.
The story is simple but the telling of it is complex, full of fantasy sequences, bluff and double-bluff, like the games Julien and Sophie play on each other. It’s exhilarating and at times frustrating, you feel like screaming at Julien and Sophie to stop being so damned childish, but still you can’t stop watching and still they can’t stop their destructive game of love. The edges between reality and fantasy become blurred and on several occasions we appear to be pitching headlong into a catastrophe that must mean the end…surely….only to be saved once more and thrown yet another dare.
Some viewers may not agree with the final, final, final outcome, but personally I thought it worked beautifully with the rest of the film and I wouldn’t have enjoyed it any other way.