Lover for a Day Review
Sometimes you feel like a director is unsure of where he wants to take his story. Philippe Garrel is the French filmmaker behind Lover for a Day, the final instalment in his love trilogy following Jealousy (2013) and In the Shadow of Women (2015). While this melodrama is acted well enough and has attractive cinematography, its unremarkable and predictable story leaves you feeling somewhat underwhelmed, which is a shame considering that it had the potential to be interesting.
Jeanne (Esther Garrel, the director's real-life daughter) is feeling lonely and vulnerable after recently splitting up with her boyfriend, and decides to move back in with her father Gilles (Éric Caravaca), a philosophy professor. However, she quickly discovers that someone else is living in her father's apartment: a pretty young woman named Ariane (Louise Chevillotte). As it turns out, Ariane is in a relationship with Gilles, despite the fact that she is one of his students and is also the same age as his daughter.
Surprisingly, and honestly quite refreshingly, the two young women do not start a bitter feud or take a strong dislike towards one another. In a peculiar way, there is a mutual respect between them; they even convince each other out of suicide attempts. While Jeanne is trying to recover from her devastating break-up, Ariane is interested in physical relationships with other men. This doesn't really seem to bother Gilles all that much until the very end, but he's also too quiet and non-confrontational to really make frequent arguments about it.
It's all well and good for Lover for a Day to tell us what it isn't. But if it isn't a story about two young women trying to win the affection of an older man (for two very different reasons), what exactly is it? The unfortunate thing about the film is that it still manages to be very predictable and ultimately forgettable. If you read the plot synopsis of a young girl falling for a much older man, you pretty much already know how the story is going to play out. And Lover for a Day doesn't break those conventions, it embraces them. Sometimes, following these tropes is acceptable (American Beauty tackled a similar subject matter in a familiar yet incredibly fascinating way), but Philippe Garrel's drama doesn't seem to have the courage to do something that is truly risky or memorable.
Most of the time, you see a film that leaves some kind of stamp on you; whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is down to each individual viewer. But, occasionally, you find films like Lover for a Day, movies that leave no impression on you and make you forget that you've even watched them. It's by no means terrible and there is clearly talent behind it, but that's not enough to save its fairly formulaic and unengaging story.