TIFF Update - Day 8: The Police Officer's Wife, A Promise, Blind Detective, and A Wolf at the Door
Patrice Leconte's A Promise has Alan Rickman, Rebecca Hall, and Richard Madden (Rob Stark in Game of Thrones) and still can't seem to find enough passion between the three of them to spark a lover's quarrel. The film reads like a Merchant-Ivory homage—Hall even sounds like Emma Thompson at times—but the resemblance is only plot deep.
It is a hard but necessary thing in an adultery drama to make the cheaters sympathetic. This is usually done by either: a) making the cuckold (usually the male) a jerk; b) making the lovers heroic in their resistance to temptation; or c) making the circumstances that separate the lovers cosmic in scope. A Promise goes after "b" and "c" but only after having all three sides of the love triangle play with fire for so long that you (or at least I) end up thinking they got all the unhappiness they deserved. There's a sermon lesson in A Promise about the differences between emotional and sexual adultery, and I suspect Stefan Zweig's novel (A Journey Into the Past) does a fuller job at explaining the emotional consequences of the lover's (non-)decisions than does the film.
The third act reads like an epilogue rather than a conclusion to the story; a smarter film would have given us less slippery-slope flirtations in the first act and more emotionally suspicious barriers in the last. Hall needs to be in more movies, though, and I would pay to watch Alan Rickman eat his soup.
I mention the Brazilian film A Wolf at the Door in passing, not because I suspect anyone in North America outside the festival circuit will ever see it, but because some cheeky provocateur somewhere is going to try to call it a "pro-life" film. The film does rather horrifically juxtapose the grisly fates of two different children, and I suppose one could make a socio-political statement out of the way we gasp at one and only grimace at the other. Really, though, some things just shouldn't be reduced to character motivations for the domestic horror/revevenge genre (think Fatal Attraction meets Ransom).
*There is a strange calculus to a festival walkout. On the one hand, people have expended a lot of time and money to get to a screening. On the other, with nearly three hundred films to choose from, those less concerned with financial costs have a lot more inducements to throw in the towel early and seek palatable fare elsewhere.
On deck: Annette Bening and Ed Harris in The Face of Love; Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin gets a cinematic adaptation.
Day 1: Closed Curtain
Day 2: The Last of the Unjust and Mission Congo
Day 3: The Past, Violette, Young & Beautiful, and The Double
Day 4:Watermark, Can a Song Save Your Life?, and Belle
Day 5: Devil's Knot, Night Moves, and The Dark Matter of Love
Day 6: Friends from France and Under the Skin
Day 7: Ladder to Damascus, Kill Your Darlings, Walesa. Man of Hope, and Jodorowsky's Dune
Kenneth R. Morefield is an Associate Professor of English at Campbell University. He is the editor of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema, Volumes I & II, and the founder of 1More Film Blog.