The titular character of Anaïs in Love takes what she wants. She is honest, leans in to risks, and says what she thinks and feels. Her older lovers are drawn to it. Younger people, her fellow thirty-something-year-olds, resent it. Both are intrigued, puzzled and at times seemingly jealous of her approach to life.
Some viewers may take issue with Anaïs as well, played here in a rich and funny performance by Anaïs Demoustier. At times she appears selfish, reckless, and a bit annoying, as protagonists of comedies often do. But most will (and should) rejoice as Anaïs takes command of her own life and destiny in a world that otherwise makes it harder for young people to live, love, and be carefree.
Anaïs in Love marks the feature debut of writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet. The film follows Anaïs and chronicles her life and struggles as a young person in France: she’s finishing a graduate thesis, she has a boyfriend who leaves a lot to be desired, she’s behind on her rent, etc. Anaïs soon ditches the boyfriend and begins seeing an older man, a book publisher named Daniel (Denis Podalydès), but it’s far from the solution to her problems.
Bourgeois-Tacquet’s clever film takes a turn when Daniel invites Anaïs to spend the night at his large apartment, a homey, elegant, bookcase-ridden space one would expect an older, wealthy couple to live in. He shares the home with his partner of twelve years, Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a successful writer who often works in the countryside. As Anaïs walks around their apartment, one feels the generational divide between the two; the difference between Millennials and the people old enough to be their parents. The haves and the have nots.
There exists a venerable tradition of such coming-of-older-age films. The ones where a person in their late twenties/early thirties struggles to come to terms with true adulthood. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s Frances Ha (2012) is probably the most influential example of the last decade. One could also point to a slew of recent films, including last year’s The Worst Person in the World and this month’s Paris, 13th District. These films deal with experiences that transcend time and age, but they also each offer their own empathetic understanding of what it is like to be a young person in this century.
Anaïs in Love picks up the baton from such films and offers a take on the urge for simple pleasures. By fondling Emilie’s make-up, books, and other nice things, Anaïs begins to form a connection with the woman. And as she does, we think about the difference between the two women, of the young person’s urge to simply have the comfort of an older person, and the need to just be settled in unsettling times.
Anaïs’ eventual pursuit of Emilie naturally opens up the film’s comedic potential, which Bourgeois-Tacquet exploits to great effect. Anaïs always seems to be running, racing to get get the most out of life. And once that fervor comes in pursuit of something more genuine, the film also becomes more heartfelt, and any annoyance we may have felt quickly subsides.
Bourgeois-Tacquet, with assists from cinematographer Noé Bach and editor Chantal Hymans, superbly depicts the bubbling sexual tensions between Anaïs and Emilie. They become infatuated with one another on a number of levels: intellectually, emotionally, and then later physically. The editing and cinematography capture each of these developments in a wonderful crescendo that climaxes with Anaïs personal growth.
A number of the film’s subplots at times feel out of place, though. For example, there are a few scenes depicting the conflict between Anaïs and her landlord; a visit to her brother, whose monkey goes into some form of cardiac arrest; and then a journey home to visit her parents, where she learns her mother’s cancer has returned. Only the last feels particularly relevant or compelling, especially as Anaïs reckons with questions of age, mentorship, life and love. The others feel like unnecessary tributaries introduced to fulfill the film’s billing as a comedy.
Anaïs in Love is witty and enticing enough without monkeys and landlords. The chemistry between Demoustier and Tedeschi is endlessly engrossing. There’s a tenderness between the two found in all of their interactions, whether they are watching a film, eating an apple, or making love on the beach.
Bourgeois-Tacquet’s film has a refreshing disregard for plausibility. There are times when the viewer may scratch their head and wonder how it all works, but that only heightens the film’s delightful romance and cathartic conclusion.
Anaïs in Love debuts in theaters on April 29, 2022 and will be on demand from May 6, 2022.
Related Topics: Anaïs in Love