Beautiful Lies (12A)
A Cyrano-inspired love triangle doused with the essence of a Ray Cooney farce, Beautiful Lies (aka De vrais mensonges) reunites Audrey Tautou with her Priceless director Pierre Salvadori.
And what begins as a fairly simple premise – workaholic hairdresser is the object of affection for her bookish handyman who writes a poetic letter of love – turns into something far more complex as it comments on the dysfunctional dynamic of family emotions, depression and how manoeuvring for the (almost) right reasons can go spectacularly awry.
Salvadori has a magnificent triumvirate at his disposal in Tautou (as Emilie), Nathalie Baye (as her mother) and Sami Bouajila as Jean, the Ivy League linguist who chose the quiet life of a handyman. And whilst there are some cleverly realised comedic moments – including an energetic clinch on a car as one well-camouflaged character looks on aghast – this is really a portrait of lonely people looking for love.
Salvadori and co-writer Benoît Graffin tie together multifarious threads of a plot that ends precisely how we suspect/hope it might. The conclusion offers no surprises. The journey to it, however, is underlined by a raft of plausible incidents and experiences that could – just – be drawn from real life.
The supernaturally well-preserved Baye is pining for her artist husband – Emilie’s father – who cast her aside as his Muse for a younger model. Bouajila (from Rachid Bouchareb’s Days of Glory and Outside the Law) found he could no longer cope with his old life so he found a new one, and discovered his love within it. And Tautou, still playing Amélie but with thorns, undergoes a transformation that defies logic.
Too complex to be a regular chick flick, and too light to be regarded as a deeply Gallic billet-doux, Beautiful Lies nevertheless offers a diversion from the formulaic piffle streaming off the Hollywood production line. This is a film in which the sensual nature of words replaces the sweat of sex, and in which eyes shining with adoration are all that is required to set the heart pounding.