Review: Rosalie Blum

Rosalie Blum appears on the surface to be a romantic comedy, but is in fact something a little harder to define. However while this tale of two unfulfilled singletons may not be so easy to categorise, that doesn’t make it any more satisfying.

In a small French town lives Vincent (Kyan Khojandi) a balding, mousy, 30-something blessed with dark, doe-like eyes. He lives under the rule of his domineering mother Simone (Anémone), literally – she lives in the apartment above his. The reclusive Simone is frighteningly manipulative, using every shade of emotional blackmail to keep Vincent at her beck and call.

While running one of her many errands, he enters a grocery shop owned by the Rosalie of the film’s title (Noémie Lvovsky). The sight of her has a strange effect on Vincent. He’s convinced he’s met her before, but she claims ignorance.

Since Vincent has nothing better to do with his time, he begins stalking Rosalie. He’s intrigued by her mysterious routine. She visits a prison, she frequents the same bar and sits on her own drinking, in fact she does everything on her own. Vincent can never summon up the courage to approach her though, he watches from a distance.

For a while one could be excused for thinking how refreshing it is to see a movie where the central romance involves a woman who’s 20 years older than the man. But such thoughts would be way off target.

While there is some intrigue for the audience in trying to fill in the blanks of Rosalie’s life, there’s a nagging feeling that the film is trying too hard to be quirky. It’s pointed out that Vincent’s bestie constantly uses very un-hip, archaic expressions, the character of Simone is dialled up just a bit too high, and Rosalie’s niece, Aude (Alice Isaaz) has a circus performer flatmate who is one eccentric personality too many.

One of the more interesting devices is splitting the film into three chapters, switching from Vincent to Aude and then to Rosalie. With each switch, the narrative goes back a step or two and we see the same scenes from a different perspective. Although this itself is hardly groundbreaking, when it’s done well, as it is here, it tells us a lot about the characters, and messes with our own preconceptions.

At about the halfway point things start getting interesting. Rosalie and Vincent are, in their own way, disconnected and adrift and it seems like it would take a delicate, perfectly balanced miracle to bring their lives together.

Further developments can only be described as thoroughly disappointing and unimaginative. To add insult to injury, the conclusion, the whole reason Rosalie sparked such a strong feeling of deja vu when Vincent first clapped eyes on her, is lame and unconvincing.

This is the directorial debut of Julien Rappeneau, and if the name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the son of Jean-Paul, director of such international hits as Cyrano de Bergerac and The Horseman on the Roof. It’s a very filmic family, with Julien’s brother Martin composing the film’s pleasantly melancholic score.  

Rappeneau senior has indeed passed on some of his filmmaking smarts to both sons. There’s nothing wrong with the direction here, Julien Rappeneau engenders a good level of intimacy between the characters, and his gifted cast all acquit themselves well (Lvovsky is always a pleasure to watch).

The film’s main problem is the script. Based on a graphic novel trilogy by Camille Jourdy, it just doesn’t have that essential ring of authenticity.

Clearly there’s something that is attracting people to this film, this year it broke all French Film Festival attendance records. I can’t help thinking though that large pockets of those audiences would have walked away feeling cheated that such a promising premise should have such an unsatisfying conclusion.  

✭✭1/2

Rosalie Blum releases on Boxing Day, with advance screenings this weekend and next.

Richard Leathem @dickiegee