Behind Closed Doors
Bertrand (Vincent Lindon) gets some much-needed household help from his sister (director Anne Le Ny).
The talented actress Anne Le Ny has made a promising start with Ceux qui Restent (Those Who Remain), her first film as a director and screenwriter, for which she has chosen an unusual subject and point of view.
The film tells the story of Bertrand (Vincent Lindon) and Lorraine (Emmanuelle Devos), who meet in a hospital while visiting their respective partners, both of whom are suffering from cancer. The two patients remain behind the closed doors of their rooms, never to be seen on camera. This deliberate omission allows the story to focus on Bertrand and Lorraine’s everyday lives and the relationship between them, but is a rather manipulative way of keeping the viewer from taking the side of the sick partners, who would normally retain our sympathy as the friendship between the two main characters inevitably develops.
Le Ny uses a number of subtle touches to illustrate the nature of her characters. The film opens with Bertrand at home serving up an unappetizing meal of fried frozen food for two: potato puffs and an unidentifiable rectangle (fish stick?). He eats his portion alone and goes out, leaving the audience wondering who the absent person is. It turns out not to be his partner, Cécile, but her resentful 16-year-old stepdaughter Valentine (Yeelem Jappain), whose hostile presence at home further complicates Bertrand’s sad life as an unwilling bachelor. In another nice indication of Bertrand’s very masculine obliviousness to his surroundings, he leaves a phone number written in lipstick on his bathroom mirror by his sister (played with great naturalness by Le Ny) for weeks, not even noticing it when shaving in front of it.
Lorraine is the opposite of the brooding Bertrand. She is lighthearted, even frivolous, to the point where she seems almost cruel in her apparent lack of compassion for her ailing boyfriend. Devos, a formidable actress herself, is once again impressive but irritating in the way she seems to be letting you know she’s a great actress. Lindon mutters his way through his role as the tight-assed, depressive Bertrand, leaving us to wonder why Lorraine is even attracted to him (must be because he is handsome and sexy).
The film avoids cliché but leaves us wondering why Bertrand makes the choice he does. It’s almost uncomfortably like real life – we are often left wondering why – but in our fiction we sometimes like a little tidiness.
© 2007 Paris Update