Film review by Dave Calhoun
Parisian filmmaker Christophe Honoré (‘Love Songs’, ‘Dans Paris’) often celebrates a distinct sort of free, romantic, talky and very French urbane lifestyle. His latest is a frank, fragmented and very touching portrait of a year in the life of Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), a 39-year-old HIV-positive writer.
‘Sorry Angel’ feels scrappy and a bit shapeless for a while, if always engrossing, and visually it looks straightforward and unadorned. But it ends up cohering into something that feels rich with the texture of messy lives as they’re lived – not as they’re dreamt up by dramatists. It feels true, and it feels real.
It’s 1993: Massive Attack and Ride are on the soundtrack; a poster advertises a Suede gig in Rennes; and ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘The Piano’ are playing at the cinema. Honoré partly concerns himself with Jacques’s burgeoning, testy love affair with Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a younger wide-eyed Breton who’s only just coming out and has his eye on moving to the big city. But he also shows us Jacques’s close friendship with his neighbour Mathieu (Denis Podalydès) and his struggling, sick former lover, Marco (Thomas Gonzalez). Jacques also has a young son, whose mother remarks how Jacques likes to live a ‘compartmentalised’ life. It’s a key line that makes so much sense of what comes before and how Honoré tells this tale.
Without overloading the period tics, ‘Sorry Angel’ works as a snapshot of a particular time in France and in gay sexual culture (and acts as a sort of companion piece to ‘120 Beats Per Minute’; there’s even mention of Act-Up meetings in conversation). Its attitude to sex and the body is distinctively honest. But mostly it’s a highly personal portrait of how lives do and don’t intersect; how ambitions and desires collide and clash, even among friends and lovers; and how romance and love come in many forms, without having to be presented or discussed as different or alternative. It’s refreshing, moving and compelling.