Abel (Louis Garrel) has a dilemma, one that makes-up the entire emotional framework of A Faithful Man. Abel lusts after two equally beautiful (and deviously cunning) women — his former girlfriend, Marianne (Laetitia Casta), who left him six years earlier for another man, and Eve (Lily-Rose Depp), who’s adored Abel from afar since she was a schoolgirl — and he has to make the difficult choice of which one he’s going to commit to. There really isn’t an issue with either partner here that would give Abel’s conflict any sort of moral weight, as both attach themselves to the young man without a second thought, while each also devise their own opportunistic strategies to ultimately seduce him (Eve consistently pursues; Marianna plays the long game, disguising her affection as indifference). Even the introduction of occasional side-plots to try and complicate these relationships, like the possibility of Marianne having murdering her previous husband, are treated more like amusing one-offs than attempts at actual character development.
So, A Faithful Man ends up being a lovers triangle without tensions or stakes to speak of, while also presenting as a comedy despite not being particularly humorous; it’s an awkward, store-brand version of Garrel’s father’s films, with none of their bite, wit, or poignancy. The most striking image Garrel Jr. is able to conjure up across the film’s hour-long runtime (which is still somehow too long for material this meager) that has even an ounce of this aforementioned playfulness comes as Abel tries to win back Marianne, chasing her through a French parliament building before being tackled by security. He awakens, forced onto the floor with his upper body centering the frame, only for his lover’s black high heel to enter the shot, as if Abel’s ready to kiss her feet for forgiveness — it’s a brief moment of gaiety, one that feels especially pronounced relative to the inert melodrama on display.
Published as part of July 2019’s Before We Vanish.