French filmmakers have a particular knack for making movies about summer as the time when bottled-up same-sex desire leaks out. Zabou Breitman’s The Man of My Life comes close to joining the top tier of this genre, but is undone by its own preciosity.
Comfortably married Frédéric (Campan) and Frédérique (Drucker) decamp with their extended brood for their villa in the Rhône valley. They quickly befriend their next-door neighbor, Hugo (Berling), a gay man who’d rather prowl the discos than find a husband. The men talk until dawn after a dinner party, deeply crushed out on each other by the time the sun comes up.
Breitman, who also cowrote, excels at capturing the escalating boldness in the physical exchanges between Frédéric and Hugo: a tucked-in sweater tag, a piggyback ride, a nuzzle, a near kiss. Berling, who played the Frédéric role in Anne Fontaine’s Dry Cleaning (1997), especially stands out in the fine cast for his delicate balance of approaching and withdrawing. But where is the raw emotion? Frédérique, clearly aware that her husband is falling in love, has a tiny, tidy crack-up; too much emphasis is placed on wall text that swirls around like the worst Magnetic Poetry. Even the 1982 sudser Making Love took more chances.