Cannes 2021 review: Anaïs in Love (Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet)

Her irresistible charm saves her.

Meet Anaïs. At 30, she is in such a delicate time in her life. She’s carefree, she’s always late, and she’s claustrophobic in elevators. She makes decisions without second thoughts. She lives her life in the present, continuously pushing forward, not even thinking of a Plan B. For her, it’s que sera sera. To say Anaïs is an interesting character might be an understatement. She can be as quirky as reminding the Korean couple renting her flat to not steal any of her books. But she can also be as serious as showing genuine care and concern for her ill mother. There are simply no dull moments watching what she decides to do next. Following her is an adventure in itself.

Anaïs in Love, part of Critics Week at this year’s Cannes, is director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s debut feature. It is easy to acknowledge that the film was taken from a female perspective, thus making the message feel stronger and personal at the same time. The film asks the question what does it feel like to be a restless modern woman in today’s society? Does it mean having your own place? Bearing your own child? Taking care of your parents?

Anaïs and Daniel met at a party. He assisted her with her bicycle going up to the 16th floor. Silly and flirty conversations at the party led to them sleeping together. “I like you, I really like you“, he says to her. But he is in a 12-year relationship with writer Emilie. Anaïs ends the night by saying, “Sleeping with people stresses me“, as she kicks him out. A chance meetup with Emilie makes the carefree Anaïs more interested in getting to know her, bringing her all the way to the countryside in order to further their acquaintance. The audience doesn’t know what pushes Anaïs to get to know Emilie better, but the more she knows about her the more she is attracted to her. Maybe it’s getting to know Daniel further, maybe it’s the intelligence Emilie possesses, or maybe it’s the sexual attraction that grows between Emilie and Anaïs with each encounter. A dancing moment to Bette Davis Eyes seals the deal for these two women.

The film references a scene of Gena Rowlands unraveling in Opening Night, and there are two allusions of choosing this John Cassavetes classic to highlight the pivotal direction of the characters in the film. For Anaïs, it’s the adoration between two women – a fan of an artist she’s slowly starting to desire. For Emilie, as she describes it – the portrait of a woman floundering.

Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet maintains a manic, mystifying energy throughout the film. Anaïs is portrayed as very bold, very energetic, and the film keeps up with this upbeat vigor, particularly in the last act as Anaïs and Emilie take their relationship to deeper levels. The on-screen chemistry between Anaïs Demoustier and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi is just straight fire. It isn’t only the physical compatibility of their characters that gels well, but the emotional sensuality that these two characters exude whenever they interact with each other. There is a little nod to Anaïs’ character in the film’s final scene, as her father says that Anaïs is indeed irresistible, and maybe her charm saves her in the end.