Journalist Bruno (Auteuil) is swithering between a wavering wife (Devos) and a much younger girlfriend (Sagnier), and politically undecided after the collapse of communism. Realising a break in routine is required, he answers a call for help from his uncle (Yanne), which takes him to the countryside near Grenoble. Charged with delivering a letter to the old man's romantic rival, he's soon deep into uncharted territory and a disorienting encounter with the volatile Béatrice (Scott Thomas). All this resolves itself into a narrative homily about needing to lose yourself in order to find your way again, but you get the feeling that Bonitzer (former Cahiers du Cinéma editor and frequent Rivette collaborator) is less interested in the destination than the uncertainties of the journey. His third feature is strongest on tantalising playfulness, as a Hitchcockian MacGuffin (what's in the letter?) leaves an already reeling Auteuil up a mountain, in a forest, facing a house of strangers. With John Scott's Herrmann-esque music saturating the proceedings in romantic unease, the film subtly massages expectations, before the leading man's rather too practised little-boy-lost routine is supplanted by the brittle intensity Scott Thomas brings to her role as a wayward spouse thrown by her own unruly emotions. And yet, while the film's keenly aware of the transient anxieties and longings that shape experience, we never really grasp the characters' feelings for ourselves. As an acting display it impresses - but academically.
Cast and crew
Kristin Scott Thomas