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He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

  He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not
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© 2002, Sony
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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+

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