The epitaph that every actor wants to direct, has run through Hollywood for decades with examples like Robert Redford, Dennis Hopper, and Sofia Coppola proving their credentials on both sides of the camera. Then there have been less exemplary examples, see everything James Franco has ever directed. French actor Louis Garrel’s second attempt at directing a feature, as well as writing and starring in it sadly falls into this second camp. There are moments of surrealist comedy that amuse, as well as a pseudo noir story played for laughs, but the whole things reeks of such unrefined narcissism that it becomes a bit too much to swallow, even with running just over one hour.
Garrel’s character Abel is unceremoniously being evicted from his apartment by his girlfriend Marianne (Laetita Casta) after she reveals that she’s having a baby with his university friend Paul, and the wedding is in ten days. We never get a glimpse of Paul, as soon after Abel is reunited with Marianne at his funeral, where they are being watched by Paul’s little sister Eve (Lily Rose Depp) who’s carried an intense fancy for Able through her youth, adolescence and adult life. What follows from here on is a relentlessly inane “comedy” where the two women fight over Abel, while he gets closer to Marianne’s son Joseph (Joseph Engel). During which the film’s idea of humour comes from producing one mildly amusing statement and repeating it until the humourless manifesto has been burnt into your retinas.
This bluntness also affects the film’s storytelling quite severely too. Told through a series of narrations that leave no room for ambiguity, and with recklessly quick solutions to any hinderance destroying any intrigue or suspense there isn’t much to compel you to carry on watching. Which is a shame, as for the most part the cast do a good job with what they’ve been given, particularly Casta who seems to revel in playing Marianne. Were the film to strip away half of its storyline and focus upon Abel rebuilding his relationship with Marianne and integrating himself into the new family with Joseph this could be an unoriginal but intriguing film examining the emotional impact of a change like that. Instead Garrel seems frightened that he may run out of content, and so tries to force a two-hour film into a 75 minute runtime, with a pointless B-plot and needless twists near the finale.
It also doesn’t help that the film’s idea of visual representation is a series of shots following the characters walk towards the lens through the streets of Paris repeatedly, intercut with the odd overly dramatic sex scene. Or perhaps repetition was the angle Garrel was aiming at with A Faithful Man.
A Faithful Man is crowded, blunt, and overall rather disinteresting. There are a couple of moments which do raise a smile, and decent acting across the board, but there are better things to see this festival season.