Get us in your inbox


  • Film
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Photograph: MUBI

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Love and lust spill over into a fierily explicit relationship drama from Ira Sachs

There are many directors whose names we immediately associate with a particular city: Wong Kar-wai with a neon-lit Hong Kong, Federico Fellini with an always-bustling Rome or Pedro Almodóvar painting luscious portraits of Madrid, to name a few. But occasionally a filmmaker jumps so seamlessly into another place that we can scarcely believe they weren't always there. So it is with Ira Sachs’ thoroughly Parisian new romantic drama. 

Having introduced us to emotionally rich New York landscapes in films like latter-day romance Love is Strange and the delicately drawn Little Men, it’s remarkable to see him take a turn for the Truffaut here and land it with recognisably French elegance. Casting the mercurial Franz Rogowski, so good in Great Freedom and terrific here too, as the spiky yet hopelessly romantic Tomas, a German filmmaker who cannot stand actors who do not know what to do with their hands. 

We meet him on the last day of a film shoot that will unexpectedly lead to that classic Parisian trope: a complicated love triangle, as he falls into the arms of Blue is the Warmest Colour star Adèle Exarchopoulos's Agathe at the wrap party, then goes home with her. His long-suffering and far-too-sweet English husband Martin (Bond star Ben Whishaw, brilliantly understated) has no say in the matter. When Tomas does the cycle of shame home the next day he bluntly announces that he intends to pursue this exciting curveball in the way of all ragingly self-centred types. 

Anyone familiar with French cinema will know that the rule with such knotty dalliances is discretion – not the headstrong Tomas’s forte – and that they rarely run smoothly. Tomas tries to flit between his two lovers while riding roughshod over their emotions. But he’s less impressed when Martin takes a lover of his own, Erwan Kepoa Falé’s novelist Amad.

It’s sexy, sad and so very French

Working with his regular co-writer Mauricio Zacharias, Sachs traces the collapse of multiple relationships with a deft hand. So much is said in where he locates his characters in the frame: who is obscured by whom when arguments rage, and in the wounded looks between his characters. Exarchopoulos, magnificent, devastates in a scene with Whishaw that underpins the fissures running through the film. ‘I realised that between you two I would disappear,’ she says. ‘And I'm not sure I’m capable of that.’

That’s the trouble with Tomas. Consumed with the idea of love, he’s unable to offer it freely in return, instead capriciously switching between the pair whenever things get tough. So when he falls back in with Martin – leading to a tender and candidly portrayed sex introducing us to more of Wishaw’s bum than you might reasonably have expected – we know instinctively that, as a surprisingly relaxed Amad warns, it won’t end well.

Right down to a final shot that’s scored joyously by a brass band, Sachs delivers an achingly beautiful film that’s sexy, sad and so very French.

In US theaters Aug 4 and UK cinemas Sep 1

Stephen A Russell
Written by
Stephen A Russell

Cast and crew

  • Director:Ira Sachs
  • Screenwriter:Mauricio Zacharias, Ira Sachs
  • Cast:
    • Franz Rogowski
    • Adèle Exarchopoulos
    • Erwan Kepoa Falé
    • Ben Whishaw
You may also like
You may also like