Angelique (Audrey Tautou, "Amelie") is in love with Loic (Samuel Le Bihan,
"Brotherhood Of The Wolf"), a heart doctor with a successful practice and a
loving wife. Angelique dreams of her lover, waits for him to call at all hours,
and shuns her friends when they suggest she's taking the affair much too
seriously. When Loic doesn't seem to respond to Angelique's affections, she
proceeds to forcibly seize his attentions any way she can get them.
What separates "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not" IMDb listing) from other lovesick revenge films is
the way director Laetitia Colombani approaches the story. Instead of merely
running through the relationship, and its eventual souring, she takes the story
and divides it into two parts: her side, and his side. Since this is a story of
romantic delusion, the separation of the tale works not only to bring out the
slight thriller aspects of the story, but also to give what normally would be a
pretty pedestrian romance a nice prickly edge.
Manipulation is the central objective of "He Loves Me Not," with the director
and screenwriters using their format to bring the audience unknowingly into
Angelique's obsessions. Harmless at first, as we are viewing her side of these
events, the knee-jerk reaction is to blast Loic for his inconsiderate behavior.
Soon enough though, as Loic's side is fleshed out in the film's second act, the
tides of sympathy change, and we see the whole story. The format is effective,
as I was completely drawn into what Colombani was trying to do with her
misdirection and themes of preconceived perceptions.
"He Loves Me Not" is a smart film this way, but less so in trying to fasten it
all together. The film is a soft valentine to the mentally unstable, somewhat
condoning the acts of the romantically obsessed. I don't exactly agree with that
summation, but I applaud Colombani for trying to find originality in this very
familiar tale. A quotation from a former obsessive placed at the end of the film
suggests Colombani might've been trying to stretch her film into something
resembling more truth than cinema. After all that has come before, it seems too
little, too late. "He Loves Me Not" is more assured as a thriller than as a
reflective piece on mental illness.
Another crafty idea from Colombani is hiring Audrey Tautou as the object of
fury. It's literally physically impossible for anyone to hate the adorable
Tautou, so when her character's activities escalate into full blown homicide,
the audience is faced with the daunting task of loathing someone who quite
possibly has the same physiology as cotton candy and sunsets. Tautou is the
secret weapon in "He Loves Me Not," as when the film takes the attention off her
for the second act, you still feel her unstable, unnerving presence.
Filmfodder Grade: B+