Anaïs In Love

“I’m too carefree,” expresses the title character midway through Anaïs In Love, “A voice tells me ‘You could die tomorrow, so make the most of it'”. From the opening frame, Anaïs moves like a character whose time is limited. She’s always running late and literally running. Elevators make her claustrophobic, but she won’t get into one alone. She looks tirelessly for a job but abandons it at the first opportunity. She watches lovers come and go, bolting at the first sight of stasis or trepidation. Her decisions are her own and her passions are her guiding light. Every second of her life must be spent doing something that she wants to do. Her life is a windfall of chaos and debt. She spends most of the film worrying about a thesis we never actually see her work on. And yet, she is one of the most compelling characters you will see in a movie this year.

This is the feature film debut from French writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, whose madcap, free-flowing style will recall the New Wave masters like Varda and Truffaut. Much like Anaïs herself, the movie burrows along from scene to scene, uninhibited by narrative discipline and frequently side-stepping what we might expect. Anaïs Demoustier plays the Anaïs in the film, a woman whose stunning beauty hides from many her clinical flightiness. She means well and is motivated by a sincere – possibly naive – quest for pure joy, unwilling to settle for half-measures or to conform to everyday obligations. In the movie’s opening scene, her landlady (Marie-Armelle Deguy) politely explains that she’s months behind on rent, Anaïs responds without urgency. It will all work itself out. After all, there are more important things to be concerned with.

Not that there aren’t parts of the real world that force their way into her life. Her mother (Anna Canovas) is dealing with the reemergence of her cancer after seven years of remission. Her mother’s mortality is perhaps the one thing that stifles Anaïs’ perpetual manic state. The other, is Emelie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). Emilie is a writer with several books – fiction and nonfiction – published. When Anaïs reads her work, she feels like she is getting a window into herself. The only problem is Anaïs is having an affair with Emelie’s husband, Daniel (Denis Podalydès), an insecure publisher with a weakness for aggressive young beauties like Anaïs. With Daniel, she was curious, but with Emelie, there is real attraction. As she forces her way into Emelie’s life (much to Daniel’s chagrin), Anaïs begins to feel something real, something worth sticking around for.

Anaïs In Love goes part and parcel with Frances Ha and The Worst Person in the World as seminal texts in the Flighty Millennial Woman sub-genre of films in the last decade. All three films see their protagonists with rose-colored glasses even if their fellow characters in the film don’t always agree. The complications of their lives (economic, romantic, familial) get pushed aside for more direct pursuits of happiness. Their selfishness is contextualized by their existential desperation. For Anaïs, she feels that her life’s journey has brought her to Emelie, a 56-year-old woman who can’t even comprehend Anaïs’ lifestyle. The compromises of Emelie’s life feel imprisoning to Anaïs, where the self-indulgence of Anaïs feels unruly to Emelie. That they find one another now feels like bad timing, but Anaïs is not one to give up what she wants.

This is a delightful little film. One that never doubts its own spirit nor short-changes its characters’ intelligence. Demoustier’s Anaïs is a wonderful creation, maddening and charming in equal measure. She’s aware of her manipulations but unaware of their extent. Men are laid waste and women are left dumbfounded, her hair-trigger mood shifts keeping everyone at odds. Bourgeois-Tacquet keeps the energy high in the first half before slowing down as Anaïs discovers her own vulnerability. The film’s bustling humor gives way to real feeling. Anaïs In Love can be as hard to pin down as its protagonist, skipping from one emotion to the next, never settling. Its undisciplined nature feels refreshing, unburdened by the restrictions of your average romantic comedy.


Written and Directed by Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet