One from last year's Cannes Film Festival, as Love Like Poison, the debut feature from Katell Quillévéré, arrives in UK cinemas. Paul Martin gets to grips with a small town drama, featuring what looks like a familiar old friend...
Hey! Short Circuit Guy! That's you, right? “Johnny Five iz alive!”, yeah? You, with your beard 'n' your specs. Heh. Y'know everyone wondered what happened to you after Short Circuit 2, where you ended up. But here you are, in a new movie... dressed as a priest... yo, like, what's the deal with that, Short Circuit Guy?
Not quite of course. Love Like Poison actor Stefano Cassetti might bear a dazzling likeness to mildly troubling racial stereotype Ben Jahrvi, played by Fisher Stevens in both Short Circuit movies, but both his character, village vicar François, and the film which he inhabits are, as good luck would have it, an entirely different kettle of cod to that aforementioned diptych of '80s fromage-fests. For while LLP director Katell Quillévéré might be younger than Blondie's Atomic, that proximity to youth is to the benefit of her first feature, as she manages to imbue her story of a girl's pubescent travails with a disarming candour and genuine emotional depth.
It is impressive how many of the Big Themes that Quillévéré touches upon over the course of her 92 minutes, as the teenage Anna (Clara Augarde) and diminutive would-be paramour Pierre (Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil) shine a light on sexual development, Anna's mother and father, Jeanne and Paul (Lio and Thierry Neuvic), tackle adult male-female relations and the attendant problems there to, and Anna's Dionysian grandfather, Jean (Michel Galabru), faces up to time being called on his corporeal existence. All of which makes the movie sound as heavy as a concrete panda, when it is actually anything but, with Quillévéré very rarely labouring or allowing her characters to become tangled up in soap opera-style melodramatics.
Looming large over all these human conflicts and dilemmas is the shadow cast by Catholicism, with the Church being presented as something of a stifling cage, its doctrines seeking to deny the human instincts which exist in each of Anna, Pierre, Jeanne, Jean, and François. Yup, even the priest finds himself wrestling with a hefty dilemma; why, it's enough to make a chap's brain short circuit.
Rating on a scale of 5 trips to confession: 4
Release date: UK = 13 May; US = TBC
Directed by: Katell Quillévéré
Screenplay by: Katell Quillévéré, Mariette Désert
Cast: Clara Augarde, Lio, Michel Galabru, Stefano Cassetti
Cert: UK = 15; US = TBC
Running Time: 92 minutes