If You Don’t, I Will | Berlin Film Festival 2014
If You Don’t, I Will is the third feature of French scriptwriter-director Sophie Fillieres to make it to Berlinale after her debut Grande Petite in 1994 and Un Chat Un Chat in 2009. This domestic romantic dramedy that features in the Panorama section tells a story of a couple who have been stuck in a long-term relationship for so long that they can’t even trace how exactly it grew so cold. And once this fact inevitably surfaces, the journey of figuring out begins.
The 40-something spouse Pomme, whose intricate emotional world is central to the film, is played by lively Emanuelle Devos. Her firmly realistic, ground-rooted performance contrasts with the mysterious and often comical presence of Mathieu Almaric, her partner Pierre. The duo might seem an odd cast at first, leaving one wondering how could the two have ever ended up together – even raising a teenage son (Nelson Delapalme). Yet, despite their unique quirks and peculiarities, the three jointly form a chaotic but quite plausible portrait of a family who might well be living in your neighbourhood.
After a row of seemingly insignificant misfortunes, Pomme realises that love is one thing definitely missing in her relationship with Pierre, driven by inert routine and daily immersions in egoism. They go hiking into the woods, but Pomme decides it’s not worth coming back. She takes a rather weird, completely spontaneous retreat-to-nature self-exploring holiday, sleeping on piles of logs, saving a trapped baby deer, and dining with random musicians in a remote small- town hotel, which adds a nice comical twist.
Meanwhile back at their apartment, Pierre is slowly starting to grow mad. The only thing left is insecurity and fear of taking any action at all. When Pomme comes back from her wanderings, she has made up her mind. The bubble of uncertainty and hesitation bursts in a brilliantly succinct and fittingly unexpected ending, nicely rounding up the story.
If You Don’t, I Will is a wake-up call movie for rusty couples, and a good explanation of why men need to buy their women flowers every once in a while. Although the set-up in the beginning feels too obviously laid-out, and the forest journey seems sparse and slow in comparison, overall this is a cute and very viewer-friendly story, told in a universally understandable way. Tackling a serious subject of growing apart in a light-hearted way, If You Don’t, I Will would always make a nice watch for an evening at home.