Published Nov 20, 2019It's not often that you stumble upon a film that possesses great pacing, dedicated performances and two whirlwind romances, but that is found within Louis Garrel's sophomore feature, A Faithful Man. Sitting in both the writer's and director's chair (with help from co-writer Jean-Claude Carrière), Garrel proves for a second time that he can do more than just act.
Garrel jumps into the character of an anxious French journalist, Abel (exceeding every expectation of tall, dark and handsome), who finds himself in a situation where he's torn between two beautiful women — his real-life partner Laetitia Casta, who plays Marianne, and newcomer Lily-Rose Depp as Ève, who comes to stir things up. The film starts off with Abel getting the news that his girlfriend Marianne, who he lives with, announces that she is pregnant — but the baby belongs to Abel's best friend, Paul, whom she plans to marry in ten days. Abel is confused and accepts the terrible and sudden news without putting up a fight, yet it's incredibly clear that he still loves her.
We cut to eight years into the future, and Paul has suddenly died of a heart attack in his sleep. Before Paul's casket is even lowered into its grave plot, the titular "faithful man" moves back in with Marianne and her son Joseph (incredibly talented child actor Joseph Engel), but not much time can pass until Ève (Paul's little sister) professes her childhood crush and longtime undying love for Abel. She is so infatuated with him that she even exclaims, "I hate to say it, but sometimes I wish Marianne would die." He is now forced to choose between his old flame from university and the obsessive younger woman who offers him a new perspective on life. Each performance in this film truly comes from a place of passion and each actor has their time to shine, but it's Depp's portrayal of the lustful go-getter Ève that stole the entire show.
Lily-Rose Depp is phenomenal; her on screen presence is so captivating and it's so exciting to see that her career is finally starting to take off. Although she had a limited amount of screen time, she still manages to put the audience in a trance every time she pops up with her hopefulness, infectious optimism and bubbly personality. Ève is a character that we watch grow up into a vibrant young woman who is discovering herself, her sexuality, and the power she has over men for the first time.
Garrel's caricature of his real Parisian hometown seems like it could take place sometime in the '80s, with cinematographer Irina Lubtchansky capturing the dainty Parisian streets as if they were only meant to be walked through by young couples in love. The directorial style on display in A Faithful Man proves that Garrel has a knack for cinema — a trait he likely inherited from his father, Philippe Garrel (Lover for a Day, In the Shadow of Women), the award-winning director associated with the French New Wave movement.
There are many original ideas within A Faithful Man and quite a few things that you wouldn't typically see in your average rom-com — such as Marianne almost forcing Abel to sleep with Ève to see if he and his old partner are truly meant to be together again.
A Faithful Man proves that everything is better when it's done by the French; it manages to pull off an old-school vibe akin to the French New Wave, all while keeping a fresh perspective on modern romance.