He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

2003, Movie, NR, 92 mins


What at first looks like a hearts-and-flowers, oh-so-French romance reveals its true colors about a third of the way through, then goes back and repeats the slight tale of love and loss from a different point of view. The trouble with director and co-writer Laetitia Colombani's debut feature is that the story isn't really interesting enough to be told twice, let alone dragged out another 20 minutes after that. It begins as Bordeaux art student Angelique (Audrey Tatou) buys a single rose for her boyfriend, Loic (Samuel Le Bihan), a romantic trifle to commemorate their first meeting. Though she's just won a prestigious award, Angelique's preoccupation with their unsatisfying relationship threatens to derail her fledgling career. Loic, a cardiologist with a pregnant wife (Isabelle Carre), ignores Angelique's cards and gifts, stands her up for a date and then blows off their romantic trip to Italy. Sitting alone in the house she's minding for an older couple, Angelique neglects her artwork and friends, lets the plants die and the house fall into disarray. Then one of Loic's patients accuses him of assault and is later found dead. Just as it seems things could get no worse for the besotted Angelique, the film rolls back to the beginning, and the story begins anew. This time we see it from Loic's point of view, and learn that he hardly knows Angelique, whom he once gave a lift because he knew she was house-sitting right next door. Loic starts getting a steady stream of unsigned love letters, flowers and gifts, but keeps his wife in the dark so as not to upset her while she's pregnant. He never imagines gamine little Angelique is the sender, instead suspecting a clingy patient; that assumption leads to dire consequences. Thin though the story is, it would stand up better to being told twice if the unbalanced nature of Angelique's attentions weren't so apparent the first time around. The two versions are cleverly aligned, with the second answering questions raised by the first — like, what exactly did Angelique hit with her friend Heloise's (Sophie Guillemin) minibike? — but by the last third, most viewers will be ready for some conventional suspense, and Colombani either can't or won't deliver. Uncovering the dark face of a sugared-rose like Tatou is a good gimmick, but it's not enough to sustain a feature-length film. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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