Cinéfranco 2015: ‘Almost Friends’ is not quite the French ‘Thelma & Louise’

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People are selfish and their selfishness often costs them relationships that would otherwise be highly beneficial to their mental health. This is the moral I took away from French actress-turned-director, Anne Le Ny’s, latest feature film, Almost Friends.

Karin Viard and Emmanuelle Devos, two of French cinema’s biggest stars, come together in this would-be buddy comedy about a couple of middle-aged Frenchwomen who seek help from each other in an attempt to battle through the crossroads of their lives. Carole (Devos) is an unhappy wife to Sam, a renowned chef and restauranteur, and has devoted her life to helping her husband’s career take off. As a result, she’s found herself living in his shadow and the psychological stress of being trapped in this life has begun manifesting itself physically in the form of painful eczema. She meets Marithé (Viard), her counselor at a centre that helps adults find new careers, and against Marithé’s desires, the women’s relationship begins to blossom into one that’s more than professional. Thanks to this growing bond, Marithé faces the dilemma of finding herself falling in love with Sam.

The film, overall, was a bore. While the characters were interesting enough and their dynamics wonderful, the plot seemed to drag and failed to have a worthwhile climax. Carole and Marithé are both selfish women, but while Carole is open about her ulterior motives from the beginning, Marithé seems to refuse to accept her selfishness making her more and more unlikeable as the film progresses, which I don’t think was the intent at all. The film started off with a subtle promise to be a loose French version of Thelma & Louise, but then began vaguely resembling Single White Female before concluding with an ending that sees both women getting what they want, but only one of them secure enough in herself to be glad for the other.

While Carole and Marithé’s fluctuating relationship is the star of the film, what’s more interesting is Marithé family dynamic: she is divorced, but her ex-husband, Pierre, and his new wife (who was once his mistress) are now two of her best friends, and all three act as parents to Marithé and Pierre’s college-bound son. How that relationship came to be would have been a much more interesting film, in my opinion, than one about the age-old quandary of women warring and risking friendships over unworthy men.

There are some wonderfully funny and touching moments in the film which almost make it worth sitting through, but if you’re looking for something profound and touching, and which ends in a way that is rewarding for everyone who deserves it, you won’t get it from this film. All it really does is remind you that even though sometimes those who deserve happiness finally achieve it, more often than that there will be those who obtain that happiness in unethical ways. Though this is a truth universally accepted, it still leaves you walking out of the threatre more than a little dissatisfied.

B-

Sarah is covering the Cinéfranco International Film Festival, which runs from April 10 to 19 at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. See more coverage here.

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