This is going to be the shortest review that has yet been posted to this column. To go too deeply into why a small French film, that came and went in its American theatrical release, is an absolute must-see would be to give away a whammy of a spoiler; and that is just not how we do things here at Collider. So, your intrepid pseudo-journalist will now attempt to provide just the right amount of information to get you jazzed about seeing this fantastic film, while not revealing some of the corkscrew twists that are guaranteed to let loose your moorings.
For example, it is probably safe to say that the movie hinges on a smart and shocking structural conceit. A lot of other movies that do this, famously Memento or The Usual Suspects are puzzle films: they are great and they engage intellectually but there is a coolness to them that invites detachment. In He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (À la folie… pas du tout), director Laetitia Colombani, together with co-writer Caroline Thivel, adds a layer cake of complex emotions to the genre, and the result is a film that transcends its trickery many times over.
Tautou plays Angélique, a free-spirited art student with a singular collage-based style who is on the cusp of an amazing future. Granted a prestigious scholarship, she is charged with generating lots of new murals over the summer. And she will have a great space to work in, since she will be house-sitting at the luxury home of an acquaintance who will be working in America for the year. Being the creative type, Angélique is also a romantic, and when she falls for the married heart specialist Loïc (Samuel LeBihan, who does a great job expanding upon a rather thankless more-than-just-a-hunk role), her studies start to slip. Every time Angélique sees him favoring his pregnant wife over her, it is a blow to the solar plexus. The last straw is when Loïc leaves Angélique waiting alone at the airport, missing a flight they were both meant to be on.
As the jilted lover becomes more and more unhinged, her friends urge her to detach, especially David (Clément Sibony) the young medical student who wants to be her true, stable boyfriend. But Angélique is inconsolable. She succumbs to depression. The house she is minding is in a shambles; numb and despairing, Angélique even uproots the rare and valuable plant that her landlords entrusted to her care. Finally, when Loïc unexpectedly makes the local tabloid news for having assaulted one of his female patients, Angélique sees an opening, a way to finally get the man she loves to make good on his promises to her.
More I cannot say. Except that Tautou is terrific as a woman pushed to the edge, and the supporting cast is all just fine. Cinematographer Pierre Aïm shoots the film in bright, eye-popping colors that heighten the sense of the clash of art and reality, and Jérôme Coullet’s kicky alt-rock driven score adds tension and counterpoint to a movie that trades heavily in both. Your brain will fire on all cylinders when you start catching on to He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, and by the time the haunting ending comes around, it may well plant the movie in your dreams.
James Napoli is an author, filmmaker and teacher whose third book Violation! The Ultimate Ticket Book is now available.