Anaïs in Love (Glasgow Review): Light, Sun-Kissed Romance
Anaïs Demoustier charms as a big ball of energy in Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s fleeting but enjoyable Anaïs in Love.
Anaïs is a likeable, absent-minded 30-year-old with a boyfriend who she doesn’t seem to particularly like anymore and an apartment that she can barely afford to live in. She is perpetually late to things but always smiling, kitted out in summery dresses and a little backpack. We first meet her running through down a city street, accompanied by dynamic camerawork and twinkling piano score, just like the infectious opening of Frances Ha (2012). It’s a light, bouncy curtain raiser, and one that sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the slight but enjoyable Anaïs in Love (Les Amours d’Anaïs).
Playing the titular role is Anaïs Demoustier (Alice and the Mayor) who, despite the main character’s flaws and questionable decisions, ensures she remains a likeable protagonist until the end. Demoustier constantly has a charming playfulness in her eyes and frequently gets her delivery of what is a very witty script spot-on. After breaking up with her first lover, Anaïs meets an older man, Denis Popdalydès’ (Caché, The Da Vinci Code) Daniel Moreau-Babin (or DMB as he signs his texts, much to Anaïs’ amusement), before quite by chance bumping into his wife, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s (Summer of 85, The Divide) Emilie, in the street. At first, Emilie is wary of and confused by Anaïs’ interest in her, but a spark quickly ignites (perhaps too quickly and idealistically), and so begins the increasingly complicated love triangle which forms the basis of the film.
Love triangle might be misleading; Anaïs in Love may just have easily been called Anaïs in Lust. There is a great sensuality beneath almost everything here, with director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet frequently injecting scenes with lingering looks, little smiles and an amorous undercurrent. Anaïs and Emilie sparkle together in their scenes, but their connection still seems a little underdeveloped and sudden. Emilie in particular shifts too quickly from wariness to comfortability with Anaïs, but their central relationship is still charming, and is the real driving force of Anaïs in Love. Anaïs’ affair with DMB is well-written, capturing the lustfulness of an affair which is over in an instant, crushed by human emotion and guilt. In general, Anaïs in Love ably portrays that sudden, heart-skipping moment you might get when meeting someone you fancy for the first time.
Amidst the love and lust, there is also a real vitality to Anaïs in Love. The camera mirrors Anaïs’ dynamism – she infects it with her vigour – and at times the film is akin to watching a Francois Truffaut picture, such is the amount of running committed to the screen. This breathlessness, perhaps inevitably, starts to wain as the film reaches its finale, but the general warmth of Anaïs in Love is always there, right up to its dreamy, if a little too perfect, ending. The lightness of the film is, for the most part, not an issue, but heavier subjects such as Anaïs’ mother’s cancer diagnosis lack the rich emotional wallop that it needs, despite the best efforts of Demoustier and Anne Canovas as her parent.
What this means for the film as a whole is that it never quite ignites into something truly memorable; Anaïs in Love is just too light and momentary to achieve that. There is an enjoyability to the love triangle and to Anaïs and Emilie’s blossoming romantic affair, but the energetic opening of the film is not matched by the rest of what follows. Demoustier, commendably, keeps the lively enthusiasm going to the end, although her character is not given enough of a background or rounded personality to explain a lot of her choices and actions; when compared to other similar films about young women reaching a pivotal moment in their lives such as Frances Ha or The Worst Person in the World (2021), Anaïs in Love’s effect greatly diminishes. The filmhas that sun-kissed feeling only a summer romance can inhibit within you, but like so many of those flings, it is fleeting and short-lived in the memory.
Anaïs in Love had its UK Premiere at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival on 7 March, 2022, and was released in the US in theaters on April 29 and on demand on May 6, 2022. The film will be out in the UK in cinemas and on streaming on August 19, and on DVD on September 26.