Rating: 2.5/5.0

“You don’t realize what human interaction is,” Anaïs’ future ex-boyfriend Raoul (Christophe Montenez) tells her in Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet’s debut album Anaïs in Love.

It’s a line that starts a crack in the film’s narrative that has, until now, been closely tied to Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier) and her island world ruled by a specter of residual naivety that pursues her to the end. adulthood. Anais is unaware of her immaturity, except for an indistinct figure of discomfort in her twenties. Raoul breaks up with her and Anaïs immediately starts sleeping with an older married man.

For the rest of the film, she flies through France in flimsy summer dresses, making one bad decision after another. This propensity to make bad decisions is not reprehensible in itself. For exposition purposes, a protagonist who is ardently inclined to sabotage his personal and professional relationships is perversely refreshing – a microdose of schadenfreude.

Yet Anaïs’ wacky nature is unfettered and endless. After sleeping with Daniel (Denis Podalydès), she renounces the symposium she is coordinating (although she cannot install a smoke alarm, she seems to have a flourishing university career). Anaïs illegally sublets an apartment she cannot afford to pay to a Korean couple before fleeing to the French countryside, driven by an unprecedented and burning infatuation for Daniel’s wife, and best-selling writer , Emilia (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). This is where the “in love” bit lies.

Anaïs’ attraction to Emilie is bifurcated, manifesting itself at the same time at the primary, sexual and scholarly level. Emilie’s status as both a lover and a foil to the limit, and makes her reciprocal interest in Anaïs seem exaggerated. Bourgeois-Tacquet fans the flames of their strange romance for most of the runtime. It takes several close encounters – including one in a secret bedroom in a guesthouse carpeted with images of lesbian pornography – before something is triggered. When it does, it’s less sparking and more spitting – a lethargic, sandy sex scene that’s both literally and figuratively anticlimactic.

The past few years have seen a revival of stories that rip the coming-of-age paradigm out of its high school setting and stitch it back together again on a coming-of-age narrative. Sally Rooney’s “Normal People” and Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World” both evoke with incisive irony the dangers of growing up in an age of insurmountable atomization.

Both of these works suggest that the way to ameliorate highly modern pressure points is through a relinquishment of careerism and a renewed investment in relationships. They testify to a keen understanding of how young people internalize and sublimate the crises of modernity. “Anaïs in Love” is more opaque in its rationalization of its heroine’s aerial stasis. Instead, the audience is left adrift with nothing resembling context.

The film intermittently saves itself from one-sided banality by portraying desire with an urgency that subverts expectations. This urgency runs counter to the languid, relaxed pace of the film, which spends a lot of time going through vignettes that may not be important to the narrative, but adorn the life of its protagonist. Although they lack utility, they provide a welcome air of reality and a fragrant backdrop.

“Anaïs In Love” does not aspire to be more than it is. Even the movie poster – which depicts Anaïs and Emilie wading through a cotton candy sunset with red roll-up typeface – acknowledges this. It’s cute and embodies a certain millennial air of the times, the kind that endears audiences to 20-year-old yuppies despite their mind-numbing narcissism and lack of social skill. However, for many, this formula is simply not coherent, even when animated by a singular and readable vision.

However, the formula impresses those who, even subliminally, see themselves as a variable. Their choice to idolize their own experiences is therefore a natural progression of events. Yet these narratives have grown tired. The film positions its sole plot point as its lesbian romance, an insufficient measure given its lack of depth and incomplete storytelling.

Emma Murphree covers the film. Contact her at [email protected].