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"If You Don't, I Will" (2014 release from France; 102 min.; original
title "Arrête ou je continue", "Stop or I'll Continue") brings the
story of a couple, Pierre (played by Mathieu Amalric) and Pomme (played
by Emmanuelle Devos). As the movie opens, we see the couple at the
opening of an exhibition and it's not long before they are arguing, and
arguing some more, over the littlest and pettiest things. Along the way
we also get to know Pomme's college-going son (from an earlier
marriage), as well as Mellie, Pierre's female friend who might have a
strong interest in him. We also find out that Pomme is recovering from
a benign brain tumor. Amidst all that bickering and arguing, life goes
on, one weekend Pierre and Pomme go on a hike in the Chamoiselle forest
(near Lyon). Imagine Pierre's shock when at the end of the hike, Pomme
announces she is staying behind in the forest. How long will Pomme stay
in the forest? Is this the end of the marriage? To tell you more would
spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how
it all plays out.
Couple of comments: this is the latest film from French writer-director Sophie Fillières, and this time she tackles a hapless topic: how do couples manage in a loveless and bored marriage? She captures the mood perfectly on a number of occasions when Pierre and Pomme don't know how to carry on the conversation (if they are not arguing) and an awkward silence takes over. When Pomme decides to remain in the forest, there is a completely different type of silence, a liberating silence that is augmented by chirping birds and other animal sounds. I couldn't help but think back to a play from the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre over 50 years ago when Sartre observed "L'enfer, c'est les autres" ("hell is the others"). This is not always an easy movie to watch, as the problems between Pierre and Pomme are profound and not easily fixable (if at all). Both lead stars give brilliant performances, but a special kudos for Emmanuelle Devos (you may remember her from "Coco Before Chanel").
This movie is the March, 2015 release of the Film Movement DVD-of-the-Month Club (which is how I got to see it). As always, the DVD comes with a bonus shortie, and this time we get "Driving Lessons" (2014 release from Belgium; 14 min.) where a 17 yr. old girl is required to take her grandmother along to her driving lessons... Just watch! Meanwhile, if you are in the mood for a tough marriage drama, this movie is just for you. "If you Don't, I Will" is a welcome addition to the ever-growing Film Movement library of foreign and indie movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Two superb French actors, Emmanuelle Devos and Mathieu Almaric, star in
this film as Pomme and Pierre respectively. Unfortunately, the
characters they portray nor the movie itself connected with me, with
the main theme being deterioration of a couple's relationship.
We really don't get to know very much at all about Pomme and Pierre, except Pomme is on leave from work due to a recent successful operation to remove a benign brain tumor. We also learn that she has a son living nearby, named Romain (Nelson Delapalme), who has a different father other than Pierre, and that Romain and Pomme have seemingly a warm and loving relationship.
The same certainly cannot be said for Pomme and Pierre, as they always seem to be bickering and arguing. Pierre comes across as quite brusque and insensitive, and Pomme seems very unhappy living with him.
One day, they decide to hike in the scenic Chamoiselle Forest, when after another tiff Pierre wants to go home but Pomme wants to stay. So he leaves her to her own devices in the vast wooded area, and as time goes on Pomme stubbornly seems to prefer roughing it in the woods, rather than return to the acrid relationship waiting for her at home. Pierre, as the days pass, also stubbornly refuses to even admit to anyone what has occurred until he finally tells Romain, then ventures into the woods to try and find her. They will both eventually have to face the realities of their relationship.
The film was written and directed by French filmmaker Sophie Fillieres.
In summary, although we get some serene scenes of nature and beauty located in the Chamoiselle Forest, this movie came across to me as quite flat, and despite the terrific actors involved, I was never able to connect emotionally to the characters they portray here.
This little French film from Film Movement was originally called
"Arrête ou je continue" (Stop or I'll continue): now it is IF YOU
WON'T' I WILL.' It seems many viewers are missing the point of this
very delicately composed eulogy on marriage. Written and directed by
Sophie Fillières this is one of the more sensitive examinations of
prolonged relationships or marriages whose glow has dimmed and needs to
alter. Others have shown the bitter finality of divorce, the distancing
that can end in mental and even physical abuse exit paths for
marriage. But this little exquisite film has the ability to observe the
increasingly flattening of response to a couple as they find the spark
of sensuality has faded along with the maturing of children and
allowing their lives to supersede that of the couple's togetherness.
Pomme (Emmanuelle Devos) and Pierre (Mathieu Amalric) have been together a long time. Passion and spontaneity have given way to predictability and cold shoulders. On a hike together one afternoon, Pomme declares her independence by deciding to stay in the woods rather than return to an underwhelming life with Pierre. Pierre tries to get back to normal, despite his worry over her whereabouts and the indelible sense that he's missing his better half. Meanwhile, Pomme begins an extended meditation in the forest on where her own life should go next, with or without Pierre. In the end, both are left to contemplate the strength and meaning of each other's commitment.
If viewers find the film dissociative and lacking focus in the beginning many feel they just don't understand what the film is doing at first then that is likely the point Sophie Fillières is making: those little moments of chipping away at the bond of marriage that if unheeded result in fractures and dissolution are subtle. But with the assistance of both Devos and Amalric as the couple the film makes its poignant point extraordinarily well.
Or is it "live together"? This right here is a strange mix, about a
couple that seems to have lost its touch to each other. It can be
considered a comedy (as it is described here), but it also feels very
much like a drama. It's hard to comprehend and there is not really much
of a "movie" feel to it. The "relationship" feels real. If you didn't
know any better, you'd think those two were actually an item. Like this
wasn't a movie at all, but reality.
What I'm trying to say, the actors convey the superb story very convincing. That is why they are known people in France (and maybe to you too, if you watch french movies in general). Sometimes after the middle of the movie, it seems like it loses its focus, but that is not true at all, which you are reminded of, when the movie picks up its pace again and there is "meeting up" ... more like a clash. A look into the future of a possible outcome for married couples? A bleak or a happy one though? Or just a mediocre one ... you'll have to watch to find out ...
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