Venice is the vibrant backdrop for this otherwise bland new drama from French director André Téchiné, a handwringer about a blocked crime writer, Francis (André Dussollier), whose stunning, severe and bisexual new bride, Judith (Carole Bouquet), provokes a corrosive jealousy in him. There’s a violent ex-con, too, whom the author befriends and whose mother was Judith’s former lover; plus an estranged daughter (Melanie Thierry) and a handsome faded aristocrat with a few too many shady business ventures. All are wounded souls, and all try their best, even if their acts are less than virtuous.
Saying a film is “novelistic” can, of course, be a double-edged sword: Does the compliment connote complex protagonists with rich inner lives, or merely an episodic structure that lacks cinematic heft? More the latter than the former, this Italy-set soap opera is an emotionally ambitious misfire from a filmmaker whose best works in the ’90s (Wild Reeds, My Favorite Season) fused a writer’s inner epiphanies with a director’s external sensualities. (Not that Téchiné’s accomplishments are long past; 2007’s The Witnesses was a dazzling, devastating look at the AIDS crisis.) His strength lies in a fidelity to how character reveals plot—a rare dynamic all too often reversed by most storytellers. While Unforgivable stays true to this approach, its disparate souls feel too scattershot to be interwoven into a meaningful narrative tapestry.