Movie Review: ‘Anais in Love’ is a Delightful Directorial Debut
Director: Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
Writer: Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet
Stars: Anaïs Demoustier, Denis Podalydès
Synopsis: Follows Anaïs, a 30-year old woman that is broke and has a lover she doesn’t think she loves anymore. She meets Daniel, who immediately falls for her. But Daniel lives with Emilie – whom Anaïs also falls for.
Ever since the mid to late 2000s, more films about the intimate lives of young characters have been made. These films are abundant in the back-and-forth discussions about love, life, and the future (which they don’t have sight of and prefer to live in the present). You could say the only reason the characters in this type of narrative live “one day at a time” without thinking about the next is because they haven’t found their respective paths. Another aspect that these characters have is that they rarely say what they mean, and a lot of the time, they don’t even know what they mean precisely. Films such as Daddy Longlegs and In Search of a Midnight’s Kiss are great examples. Still, the one that stands out the most (and people adore it to a great extent) is Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha–described by many as the most relatable movie ever for people who seek beauty in the little details and gestures. Frances Ha was the game-changer for the features categorized into this sub-subgenre. Last year, we got the astonishing marvel by Joachim Trier, The Worst Person in the World. In 2022, Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feature directorial debut and Cannes 2021 “Semaine de la critique” selection, Anaïs in Love, is finally getting its release, which is a flick many will love.
The film centers around its title character, Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier), a thirty-year-old Ph.D. student (who hasn’t finished her thesis on 17th-century depictions of passion) enamored with literature and is currently close to being broke. Anaïs has a lover, but she’s starting to feel that she doesn’t love him anymore. The longing feeling of leaving him has been in her mind for a while (being quite tentative with her love life even though she questions later in the movie: “You think I don’t know how to love?”), albeit she’s sure of it now. Anaïs’ approach to life is “living in the moment and forgetting about the rest”, while her brain works at 100 miles per hour. Redundant to her fast-paced demeanor, she is always late to dates, meetings, or appointments–preferring to stroll around on her bike in the streets of Paris thinking “the world is waiting for her”. Putting those “imperfections” that her lover remarks on aside, Anaïs is a gleaming ray of sunshine with a whirlwind of emotions running through her mind. She is constantly questioning her status in life and what she wants in the end; nevertheless, things come when she least expects it.
Anaïs meets Daniel (Denis Podalydès) in an apartment elevator, and he immediately falls in love with the charismatic gal. However, Daniel lives with Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi)–for whom she also falls for. As restless as it sounds, a love triangle of sorts is formed; amidst that, she encounters the desire for whom to love and the yearning to find her path in life finally. In sheer delight, Bourgeois-Tacquet’s first feature is a charmer, just like its title character–filled with bliss and as bubbly as a glass of champagne. It is easy to start comparing Anaïs in Love with its previously mentioned (and other) predecessors. In some ways, it is fair (since it is neither groundbreaking, nor particularly original), but something about this movie shines as much as the others. One of the reasons is its humanistic and well-thought screenplay. Tacquet uses the filmographies of legendary French directors like Rohmer and Mouret, as well as Jeunet’s Amelie, as inspiration. The former delivers a more human-centered approach, and the latter showers the screen in warmth and palpability (yet, without the fantasy-esque elements).
But, of course, not everything in this story will be peaches and cream, thanks to the indecisiveness and mischievousness of Anaïs. She’s living in the moment, with little to no consequences following her every decision (good or bad). As the narrative develops and the love triangle starts fracturing, she begins to confront what will become of her in the next couple of years and her deepest desires. The screenplay spontaneously captures the slow realization of this confrontation while showing us that she is indeed brilliant (and funny), yet blinded by the doubts of her own capabilities. John Cassavetes’ film, Opening Night, makes a brief appearance during a scene at the theaters, which adds to the themes of succumbing to one’s uncertainty and the search for passion. Some of Anaïs’ “troubles” may have come from the shock of her mother’s cancer, disrupting her life plans as a chain reaction; this ultimately led to her prioritization of absolute happiness instead of resentment and broken promises. Although humanly flawed and some decisions aren’t meant to be applauded (yet understandable), Demoustier makes the character charming, tangible, and alluring.
In addition, the chemistry between her and Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is the highlight of the entire picture. Not only are their conversations grounded, but they seem like actual people slowly falling in love–the light glinting in their eyes as they carefully listen to every word one is saying. As they talk about literature and Anaïs’ love for her childhood teacher, the two ladies know they are quite the opposite, yet are fascinated to learn more about each other. Regarding the actress duet, director-writer Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet said: “They are so different, they don’t have the same energy, nor the same sensuality.” Anaïs in Love is a conversational story–heavily lifted by the romantic entanglements of a surging love triangle–an effervescent and breezy tale of sincerity, devotion, and freedom. It doesn’t feel like Bourgeois-Tacquet’s feat
ure-length directorial debut. Instead, the film showcases her ripe and stylistic wide range of talent as a screenwriter and director, with a simplistic and delicate approach to a coming-of-age narrative.