An Impossible Love: Corsini's film is not afraid to dig deep into some pretty disturbing issues
An Impossible Love (16, 135mins) - 3 stars
I very much liked Catherine Corsini's last film, Summertime, a touching tale of a love affair between two very different 1970s French women. This film is also a period drama, but with far more disturbing undercurrents, and is based on a memoir by Christine Angot, whose candid accounts of her troubled childhood have made her a celebrity in France.
It's the late 1950s, and Rachel Steiner (Virginie Efira) is working as an office secretary in her native Chateauroux, at this point a sleepy central French town. She's 25 and single, and seems resigned to life on the shelf till she catches the eye of a dashing Parisian called Philippe (Niels Schneider). He's well-read, fluent in several languages and quickly sweeps Rachel off her feet. Real love seems possible, but when Rachel finds out that she's pregnant, Philippe heads for the hills.
As her daughter Chantal grows up, the father is hardly ever seen, and when Rachel asks him to legally acknowledge the girl, he's evasive. But when Chantal is 14, Philippe suddenly comes back into her life in ways her mother could never have expected.
An Impossible Love is not a disciplined film: at times it meanders too slowly, at others it almost chokes on its melodramatic energy. In moments it almost seems like a well-shot soap opera, but Corsini's film is not afraid to dig deep into some pretty disturbing issues, and the central performances are excellent. Niels Schneider oozes a chilling coldness as the suave but utterly solipsistic Pierre, and Estelle Lescure shows impressive emotional range as the teenage Chantal.
Virginie Efira anchors this imperfect film with her earthy beauty and compelling emotional honesty. She used to be a TV news reader before she took to acting: the Belgian evening news' loss is definitely our gain.