Her lover is dangerously horny “Simple Passion”, tattooed, and sinewy. He calls her in the course of the day for spontaneous trysts, sending her right into a frenzy of making an attempt on garments and making use of simply the correct quantity of make-up, all in an effort to look fascinating without wanting as if she’s making an attempt too arduous. And once they’re completed and basking within the afterglow of their spirited cavorting, it’s clear within the chilly, arduous mild of the day—at the very least to us—that he’s mind-numbingly boring and so they have zero in widespread.
Such is the tough fact of the French drama “Simple Passion” from author/director Danielle Arbid, primarily based on the novel by Annie Ernaux. Arbid approaches her graphic intercourse scenes in a matter-of-fact style, with nothing romantic in regards to the lighting or pacing, heightening the sense that this torrid affair is precisely that—a fling, a spark of a connection that couldn’t presumably final. However, we all know from the beginning that Helene (Laetitia Dosch), the 40ish divorcee in the middle of “Simple Passion,” views it as a lot extra. She clings to those moments obsessively, replaying them in her thoughts, scheming to see this mysterious and elusive man to the detriment of every part else in her life. You need to seize her by the shoulders, look her within the eye, and inform her to snap out of it. She’s too precious for such needy, teenage-girl nonsense, and he’s not well worth the appreciable power she’s devoting to him. He’s actively boring—and that’s the purpose. However who he’s isn’t as vital as what he represents: an opportunity to be found anew for the primary time in a very long time, to really feel stunning and wished once more.
Then once more, the actor taking part in him is Sergei Polunin, so you may sort of see the attraction. The Ukrainian bad-boy ballet star, as well-known for his once-in-a-generation expertise as he’s for his rebellious streak, is a chiseled spectacle to behold. His character, Alexandre, is a well-dressed official at the Russian embassy in Paris. (What he does there’s deliberately imprecise, prompting Helene to accuse him playfully of being a spy. If solely.) He’s a lot youthful and—oh, yeah—he has a spouse again in Moscow. He couldn’t be extra completely different from Helene, a college professor and mental who enjoys poetry and movie. “He loves Hollywood crap and Putin!” she laments to her finest good friend on the cellphone. (And Polunin, we should always word, is within the strategy of getting all his tattoos eliminated, together with the large image of Vladimir Putin’s face emblazoned throughout his chest.)
Alexandre can also be chilly and aloof to the purpose of being evasive. The extra Helene longs to know him, the extra unknowable he turns into, which solely makes her need him extra. The fresh-faced Dosch performs each word of her character’s wide selection of emotions—giddiness, anxiousness, rapture, desperation—with detailed precision, and Arbid lets us drink all of it in with lengthy takes. Even when “Simple Passion” grows repetitive, and the intercourse turns perfunctory, and the conversations between these two grow to be much more inane (once more, all of which is Arbid’s level), Dosch’s uncooked bodily and emotional efficiency pulls us in and retains us hooked. As she wanders the aisles of the grocery retailer with a faraway look in her pale blue eyes, it’s clear that she’s daydreaming about Alexandre—when she remembers to go to the grocery retailer, that’s. More and more, Helene grows indifferent from the duties of her day-by-day life, together with cooking for her surly tween son, Paul (Lou Teymour-Thion). In a susceptible second on the dinner desk, she tells her solely little one: “I like you, sweetheart. You’re my life.” He shrugs a response that—to this viewer, at the very least—cuts deeper than any of Alexandre’s inconsiderate betrayals.
Whereas Dosch’s work is ever-changing however all the time accessible, Polunin by no means comes near matching her performing capability, which finally leaves “Simple Passion” missing. He doesn’t dance in any respect right here, as he’s performed in earlier movies together with “Red Sparrow” and the documentary dedicated to his life, “Dancer,” however that also stays the medium by way of which he connects most powerfully together with his viewers. Right here, the romance is so devoid of any chemistry past a purely carnal attraction, we’re left questioning why this man of all guys has the in any other case clever Helene Google-stalking him and incessantly checking her cellphone for messages. Woman, he’s simply not that into you.