Anais (Anaïs Demoustier) is the Frenchest of French characters, a free spirited, pretty young women who rides a bicycle, is always running everywhere because she’s constantly late, always has to talk her way out of problems and – because she’s a bundle of charming energy – usually does. The only thing she’s missing is a beret and a paper grocery bag with a baguette sticking out of the top.
Even when dealing with ups and downs in her life, including the emotional turmoil at the thought of losing her mother when the latter’s cancer reappears and having to get an abortion because her sometime boyfriend has got her pregnant, Anais goes through life (and the film) with casual and sometimes clueless aplomb and a smile on her face because nothing can hold down her joy at being alive.
And being the Frenchest of French films, ‘Anais in Love’ is about matters of the heart, laced with a very liberal dollop of infidelity. She’s kind of over her boyfriend, but when she attends the party thrown by friends of friends she meets Daniel (Denis Podalydès) a much older man and an academic – so yes, you know they’re going to have an affair.
Daniel falls for his much younger lover far harder than she does him, and Anais almost immediately grows bored of it all. But that’s partly down to his wife Emilie (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi), a successful author Anais feels drawn to despite never having met her.
When she does so, ditching work to make her way to a rural literary symposium Emilie is taking part in, she’s smitten. Despite never having considered herself gay before, Anais falls for Emilie hard, and whether it’s simply the high-beam attention of someone so young and beautiful or because there’s something similarly missing in her own life, Emilie gives into the attraction too, the two women falling into each other’s arms over the blissful few days.
Narratively the whole thing falls apart a bit in the final few scenes. For some reason writer/director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet has Anais deliver a few lines straight to camera, apparently in an effort to communicate to the audience that she’s come to some grand realisation about herself.
Then Emilie, with the maturity to see behind the reason for their attraction, impresses upon Anais what has to come next very eloquently, and the about-turn that follows feels forced, an attempt to leave the whole story open-ended that feels more like Bourgeois-Tacquet just didn’t know how to bring the script to an end.
But the design, costuming and approach in everything from locations to the human form are never less than breezily attractive, and as kind of lightweight as the story ends up being, it’s very, very, very French (a good thing because it’s a breath of fresh air after the comparative heavy-handedness of most American films).