BOTH SIDES OF THE BLADE (2022, France)

July 7, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. If you are one of the many who need someone to cheer for – a nice person – in order for a movie to work for you, then this latest from renowned French director Claire Denis (BEAU TREVAIL, 2019) is going to be a challenge. Ms. Denis co-wrote the script with Christine Angot (they previously collaborated on LET THE SUNSHINE IN, 2017), an adaptation of Ms. Angot’s novel.

Oscar winner Juliette Binoche stars as Sara, and we first see her whilst on an idyllic retreat with her long-time lover Jean, played by screen veteran Vincent Lindon. Sara and Jean are clearly happy and in love. When they return to Paris, we learn Sara is a talk show host for Radio France International, and Jean is a former Rugby star who has spent time in prison for an unspecified crime. His son, Marcus (Issa Perica), from a previous relationship is a troubled young man being raised by Jean’s elderly mother, Nelly (Bulle Ogier). Jean has little fatherly sense and makes only a negligible effort to help.

One day, Sara spots her former lover, Francois (Gregoire Colin), on the street. Maybe he sees her, maybe he doesn’t. Sara is overcome with emotion. Sara and Francois were together when she began seeing Jean. To make this the most French situation possible, Francois and Jean were friends and business associates at the time. It’s even implied that Jean’s crime was related to activities connected to Francois. So what happens next? Well, Francois phones Jean to offer him a chance to come back into the scouting business for a new sports agency. It’s at this point where Francois’ motivations come into question. Is he doing his friend a solid, or worming his way back into Sara’s life?

This becomes a love triangle even more complicated than most. Sara deludes herself into thinking she can once again enjoy the fruits of Francois, while also appeasing her beloved Jean. Jean is distracted by issues with Marcus, but also too proud to let Sara walk over him. On full display are the destructive effects of an affair and the lack of respect and appreciation for a strong relationship. When the power of lust and idealistic romance collide, things get emotional. Cinematographer Eric Gautier works wonders in confined spaces. We never feel like the characters have room to breathe after making another poor decision. It’s interesting to see how smoking and taking calls on the apartment balcony becomes the only “space”. The close-ups allow Ms. Binoche and Mr. Lindon to do what they do best. The music is by Stuart Staples and includes a song written especially for the film. Ms. Denis again proves adept at allowing viewers to interpret the actions of all-too-human characters.

Opening July 8, 2022

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