With male strippers and a talking teddy bear set to make waves at the box office now as we hit the middle of the year, one film from the independent realm is set to make waves of a totally different style. Coming to us from iconic French filmmaker Andre Techine, Unforgivable may be a romantic drama structurally, but intellectually, it’s so very much more than that could ever mean.
Unforgivable tells the story of a crime fiction writer working on his new novel in Venice, only to find himself smitten with a local real-estate agent, who soon becomes his lawfully wedded bride. Moving to a house on the Torcello Island, things are flipped on their heads as our lead begins to obsess over the daily happenings of the people around him, namely his wife. With the romance aspect of the film comprising a brief portion of the film’s first act, this film is far better described as a voyeuristic look into love at a cavalcade of stages.
Starring the likes of Andre Dussollier, Carole Bouquet, Melanie Thierry and Mauro Conte, the film’s cast is utterly superb. Dussollier is fantastic here as our lead, Francis, a man who we meet and instantly fall in love with, only to get thrust into his world of worry and his lack of trust in the entirety of those surrounding him. It’s a wonderfully toned performance, without any brooding flourish found in many modern thrillers, of which this is very much one. Carole Bouquet is equally as good here as Dussollier’s romantic foil, and gives the film a duo at its core. However, this relationship also plays into the film’s biggest flaw.
Tonally, the film is utterly dire. With little to no emotional core, the film is saved by a great sense of style brought on by director Techine, and these great performances. Cold, distant and clinical, Techine’s frame is a well crafted one, but it’s also one that continually keeps the viewer at arm’s length. Featuring equally rigged architecture and naturalistic cinematography, the film is visually gorgeous, but with such a voyeuristic narrative at its core, it seems like a distinctly bizarre choice. Lacking that sense of visual intrigue, like something say from director Brian DePalma, the film’s core doesn’t quite make for a visceral experience.
However, while it will be tough for one to connect emotionally to the film, intellectually, the film is breathtaking. A moving look at love and how it can truly play with one’s center, the film is distant, but not without a point of sorts. With his partner always seemingly at a distance, Francis attempts to see what she does daily, without ever truly confronting her in a meaningful way. He attempts to talk about it, but is scoffed at, only further throwing him down the rabbit hole. It’s really quite an intriguing premise, one that may seem conventional, but is done with wonderful craft and great writing.
While the film may leave the viewer a tad cold, Unforgivable is led by a handful of top tier performances, all under the watchful eye of one of the film world’s most unsung auteurs. A chilling proto-thriller, this is a one of a kind film that looks deep into the heart of love, and doesn’t look back.