The Movie Waffler IFI French Film Festival 2017 Review - LOVER FOR A DAY | The Movie Waffler

IFI French Film Festival 2017 Review - LOVER FOR A DAY

lover for a day review
A young woman moves in with her father and his young lover.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Philippe Garrel

Starring: Eric Caravaca, Esther Garrel, Louise Chevillotte, Paul Toucang

lover for a day poster

Few film industries can boast such diversity behind the camera as France's. In recent years the European nation has put the rest of the world to shame with a remarkable crop of talented young women filmmakers emerging to tell stories from a uniquely female perspective, and France's current biggest stars are almost exclusively older women, former ingenues now turned monolithic megastars. Yet still we get movies like veteran director and one-time enfant terrible Philippe Garrel's Lover for a Day, borderline misogynistic male fantasies that suggest their creators have never spoken to a woman outside of a film set. Despite such a narrow worldview, these films often somehow work, and Lover for a Day is such an example.

lover for a day

Garrel casts his own daughter Esther (whom you may have seen as Timothee Chalamet's put-upon 'girlfriend' in Call Me by Your Name) as Jeanne, a millenial who moves in with her middle-aged college professor father Gilles (Eric Caravaca) after leaving her boyfriend due to suspicions of infidelity. Initially unbeknownst to Esther, Gilles shares his apartment with Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), his former student, now lover.

Ariane is the same age as Esther, and looks like a supermodel, which causes much immediate friction between the two women. Both grow jealous of the attention Gilles foists on each of the young women, and they express their emotions in that over the top way badly written women in French melodramas tend to do, but watching their passive aggressive duels is undeniably engrossing.

lover for a day

As so many French actresses have done over the decades, Garrel and Chevillotte rise above thin material and elevate it with naturally charismatic performances. The latter is given the 'bad girl' role, with Ariane cheating on Gilles with every opportunistic young hunk that comes along, while Garrel is exactly the sort of innocent you might expect a filmmaker to cast his daughter as. They should be characters so cardboard they would crumble in rain, but the young women playing them do some remarkable work, at times threatening to turn a pig's ear of a script into a silk purse of a film.

lover for a day

While Garrel leaves the dramatic heavy lifting to his female stars, visually he captures Paris at its best, cinematographer Renato Berta's glorious monochrome and the ambivalent fashions sported by the cast giving Lover for a Day a timeless feel, a reminder that at the age of 16, Garrel made his debut at the height of the French New Wave. His latest film suggests it's a movement and an era Garrel is stuck in, but his youthful leads bring a freshness to his stale and outdated ideas. It's the filmmaking equivalent of a father trying on an outfit gifted to him by his hip young daughters, one he considered a little too flamboyant, but which actually makes for a good fit once he tries it on. Maybe these kids are onto something with their new-fangled ways.

Lover for a Day is in UK cinemas January 19th 2018.