Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s debut feature Anaïs in Love is an elegant French drama grounded by a beautiful performance from Anaïs Demoustier who captures the title character’s amusingly chaotic life with a whimsy and delight. With impressive support from Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Anaïs in Love is a breezy and absorbing treat.
Based on a screenplay from Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet, the feature centres on thirty year old Anaïs (Demoustier) who careers through life giving little thought to her thesis, rent and relationships. She meets older man Daniel (Denis Podalydès) and begins an affair with him, yet this overshadowed by a growing flirtation with Daniel’s wife, successful writer Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi).
Cinematographer Noé Bach shoots the feature with a bright and airy colour palette, enhancing the natural beauty of the both the urban and rural French settings. This is impressive in cementing the light yet emotional tone of Bourgeois-Tacquet’s film. Floral design title scenes also showcase a vibrancy that compliments the tone of Anaïs in Love – this visual personality and flavour is furthered in neat touches such as texts appearing on screen, romance-fuelled narration and sun-kissed locales.
The light visuals of Anaïs in Love are paralleled in quirky little touches that help further the personality of Bourgeois-Tacquet’s film. Scenes involving Anaïs’s brother and his pet lemur taking a Xanax or Anaïs awkwardly showing Japanese visitors her apartment add a welcome levity and humour to proceedings with the film brimming with charm. Parallels to Greta Gerwig’s work such as Frances Ha! could certainly be drawn in Demoustier’s absorbing and likeable protagonist – although Anaïs’s life is steeped in chaos and a lack of stability, we are rooting for her throughout thanks to the performer’s warm and endearing performance.
Bourgeois-Tacquet draws us in with the film’s narrative by never veering down the routes that we quite expect. When we see Anaïs’s damaged relationship with her boyfriend overshadowed by her new relationship with Daniel, it seems like we know where Anaïs in Love is heading. With the arrival of the magnetic Emilie – played with a captivating charm by Bruni Tedeschi – Bourgeois-Tacquet flips our expectations. This marks some of the film’s most interesting moments as we see the slow-burning flirtation with Emilie turn into a passionate romantic affair.
There is a sharp emotional tension explored in the differing intentions between Emilie and Anaïs that engage us in their romance to a deeper level. Elegant exchanges between the pair – including a breathy love scene on a Nantes beach – are vibrantly shot by Bach, drawing us into the woozy love story at the heart of the piece.
The romance between Emilie and Anaïs is something that Bourgeois-Tacquet brings into the narrative a little late despite it being far more engaging than the flirtation between Daniel and Anaïs. A little more focus on this and giving it a more prevalence in the narrative would have undoubtedly enhanced Anaïs in Love as the spark between the two women is hugely magnetic.
A beautifully pitched performance from Demoustier, paired with light and airy visuals, and a breezy tone that blurs the line between emotional romance and gentle humour helps Anaïs in Love continually shine.