L’Économie du Couple (After Love)
Sometimes it’s okay for a film to have modest ambition. Joachim Lafosse’s L’Économie du Couple (After Love) mostly keeps to the interior of one house, and focuses on a small cast of characters: Marie (Bérénice Bejo), Boris (Cédric Kahn), and their two children, Jade and Margaux. Marie and Boris are in the process of separating; because of mortgage agreements and a desire to make the transition as easy as possible on the kids, they are still living in the same house together.
The domestic drama is not, initially, one of shouting matches. It’s more about tactics and power, as each parent struggles with the way the other undercuts their instruction. They agree on having separate days, but Boris breaks that by coming home early from work and playing video games with the kids. Marie resents the way she has to play the strict mother, or the buzz kill who takes issue with Boris’s interactions with her family and friends, and his inclination to make promises he can’t keep.
While each of the children go through periods of affection and resistance for each parent, it’s evident the film sides with Marie. This is largely thanks to Bérénice Bejo, who was given a fantastic role in The Artist but had yet to match it until now. The stripped-back visual style, all long takes and no-nonsense composition, allows the subtleties of her acting style to emerge unobstructed; an extended, complex scene of dancing is a highlight. Cédric Kahn is given the bulk of the increasingly passive-aggressive behaviour, but he’s shown to be good with the kids, at least until real responsibility is involved.
Tense, outwardly repetitive scenes are sustained by a convincing grasp of dialogue and character evolution. This is what the breakdown of a relationship should actually look like – all inconsistent, frayed human behaviour, with small conflicts over kids and money often escalating into arguments that offer little catharsis. With L’Économie du Couple, an otherwise stagey quality to the movie is mitigated by the performances of Kahn and Bejo and by Lafosse’s sharp attention span, where the subject of and exposure to a particular image is exact.
L’Économie du Couple (After Love) is released nationwide on 28th October 2016.
Watch the trailer for L’Économie du Couple (After Love) here: