Clara et moi Arnaud Viard

Clara et moi is a decent enough movie if you're not expecting much, but it's hard not to expect much when the subject it broaches is so serious. It begins innocently enough with Woody Allen neurotic Antoine (Julien Boisselier), a 33-year-old actor with no prospects — none, that is, until he meets Clara (Julie Gayet), falls madly in love and has the usual adorable romantic-comedy adventures.

For a time, it's decent enough fluff, aside from a too-precious musical number (you had to be there) and the slightly nauseous feeling you get watching lovey-dovey people acting cute. But then the bomb drops that Clara is HIV positive, Antoine proves incapable of handling it and the filmmakers fail to rise to the challenge. Trapped as it is in the hero's slightly narcissistic gaze, the film can't express Clara's pain even when it's required to, making it the saga of whether the hero will stop being such a schmuck and return to his soulmate. It never occurs to the filmmaker that Clara might want equal time or speak for herself.

To be fair, the film manages to soldier on pleasantly despite this handicap, selling some dumb family-strife backstory and a phone-sex subplot that not even Spike Lee could stomach. But it deals with its foreground crisis in such a disease-of-the-week-meets-Friends way that it may cause you to resent it in spite of yourself, with no getting around its cagey non-handling handling of the situation and reduction of everything to whether the hero can be redeemed.

Though it tries to put him in his place, I would have been happier to have seen him step up and set an example instead of wringing his hands for melodramatic effect. (Mongrel Media)