The Movie Waffler New to MUBI - BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE | The Movie Waffler


A couple's relationship is threatened by the return of a figure from their past.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Claire Denis

Starring: Juliette Binoche, Vincent Lindon, Grégoire Colin, Mati Diop, Bulle Ogier, Issa Perica

both sides of the blade poster

Both Sides of the Blade, Claire Denis' love triangle drama, originally was set to be released under the English language title 'Fire'. Fans of French cinema will note the thematic similarity to Claude Chabrol's 1994 study of the consumptive effects of jealousy, L'Enfer, which may have inspired Denis' initial title. Like Chabrol's film, Both Sides of the Blade concerns a husband, Jean (Vincent Lindon), who becomes consumed with the idea that his wife, Sara (Juliette Binoche) is having an affair with his old business partner and her former boyfriend Francois (Grégoire Colin). In this case he's correct to be paranoid, as Sara and Francois are indeed hooking up.

both sides of the blade review

We find Jean and Sara sharing an idyllic getaway, frolicking in the warm waters of some idyllic tourist trap. Returning to the grey skies of Paris, they get back to their lives. Sara hosts a radio talk show, while Jean is trying to put together some ambiguous business venture, a struggle given he's an ex-convict. We never learn of Jean's crime, but it's suggested he may have taken the wrap for some dodgy dealings involving Francois. When Francois reappears in Paris, he convinces Jean to become his partner in building a recruitment agency for young rugby players. Sara is none too happy for Francois to return to their lives, as she fears he will get Jean into more trouble, and she's still madly in love with him.

both sides of the blade review

Early on, Both Sides of the Blade suggests it's about to explore an idea we don’t often see on screen, that of a woman growing jealous of her husband's platonic friendship with another man. It's something that happens all the time in reality; who doesn't know a couple that split because one of them was more interested in spending time with their mates than their other half? Sara is shown as being so consumed by her love for Jean that we suspect the intrusion of a friend taking him away from her might be enough to set her off. Despite what may have occurred between them in the past, Jean and Francois immediately resume their bromance. Jean keeps details about Francois a secret from Sara, as though he's having an affair himself. It's a fascinating idea, but then Sara begins having an actual affair with Francois and it morphs into a formulaic, sub-Adrian Lyne erotic drama with nothing novel to say about love or lust.

both sides of the blade review

Add in a poorly sketched subplot about Jean's estranged mixed race son (Issa Perica) getting swept up in the Black Lives Matter movement and Denis' film begins to grind to a halt in its turgid second half. No amount of histrionics between Jean and Sara can inject life into what becomes a leaden affair after an initially engaging courtship with the viewer. As you would expect, Binoche and Lindon are both very good, managing to pull off the sort of dialogue only a French actor could get away with verbalising. But their characters become such one-note archetypes that it's difficult to care what happens to their relationship. Like a bad love affair, Both Sides of the Blade seduces us early on, but 90 minutes later you'll be looking for a way out of the relationship.

Both Sides of the Blade
 is on MUBI UK now.

2022 movie reviews