Review: Real Love
by Vittoria Scarpa
- VENICE 2018: The first solo project by French director Claire Burger is a tender and authentic story about a family in crisis, with a touching performance by Bouli Lanners
A middle-aged-man-cum-emotional addict is forced to find himself after being abandoned by his wife: a woman who has dedicated the last twenty years of her life to her husband and daughters, but who now feels entitled to take her own path. Caught between them are two teenage girls with their typical bad moods, numerous first times and a desire to grow up. The French director Claire Burger catapults us into the middle of a family crisis in Real Love [+see also:
interview: Claire Burger
film profile], her first solo feature film, screened in competition at the Giornate degli Autori at the 75th Venice Film Festival. In her new film (which she wrote herself and is largely autobiographical), Burger, previously a co-directoralong with Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis of Party Girl [+see also:
interview: Marie Amachoukeli, Claire B…
film profile] – which premiered at Cannes in 2014 – chooses to focus on what happens to a family when a parent leaves. But in this story, contrary to the norm, it's not the father who flees the nest. Instead, it’s the father who desperately seeks to hold the pieces together.
The father, Mario, is played by a very tender and disoriented Bouli Lanners. He doesn't try to stop his wife Armelle (Cécile Remy-Boutang) from packing her bags, but he does ask her to come back soon, after she’s taken all the time she needs. This is also a form of love, the film seems to suggest: letting go. But that's not entirely the case. Mario can’t resist going looking for her. He wants to talk to her, so he joins a theatre group at the theatre his wife works at in order to overcome his limits and get closer to her. But the biggest challenge Mario will have to face is managing his teenage daughters, Frida (Justine Lacroix), 14, and Niki (Sarah Henochsberg), almost 18, who choose to stay in the family home with him. Moments of great affection and complicity (a foot strokes dad's leg while watching TV) alternate with long and dramatic outbursts, especially from the youngest daughter, Frida, who is struggling to deal with her first romantic disappointment and who misses their mother the most, while her older sister focuses on growing up and becoming more independent.
In addition to its exceptional cast, the film's strength – applauded by audience members yesterday in the presence of a visibly moved Bouli Lanners – lies in the authenticity of a broken family’s everyday life, the pain of separation, children that grow up and move away, but above all the shock of a man who would like to stop everything, who loves his family and would like to keep everyone together, a "maternal" man, generous and sensitive, passionate about art (something he tries to pass on to his daughters) and empathetic. "My whole life is to love you," says Mario in what may be the last moment in which all four of them are together, lying on a double bed at home. But to love is also to know how to let go, and when faced with his wife, so strong and determined to take flight elsewhere, and to take the girls with her, too, Mario has no choice but to let go of the reins. An opportunity, in the end, to find himself and experience new, important first times too.
(Translated from Italian)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.