Writer/Director Christophe Honoré (Sophie’s Misfortunes, Love Songs, The Beautiful Person) returns with Sorry Angel, a wonderfully disarming and muted romantic drama that joins the fine tradition of French (and indeed global) gay cinema. Sporting two stellar central turns from Vincent Lacoste and Pierre Deladonchamps, the film wins in its intimate character work, wry humour, and non-manipulated humanism.
The French title directly translates to Pleasure, Love and Run Fast which denotes much more succinctly the three elements at play in Sorry Angel. The instant gratification of sexual attraction, the deeper seeded connections between people and the fear that comes when intensity approaches. It’s meaty stuff but, as the title suggests, it’s an arch all us humans go on.
It’s 1993 Paris and we meet stifled writer Jacques (Deladonchamps), a middle aged HIV+ man dining with a much younger man whom we learn has been on the scene and off the scene for years with him. They flitter and toy with each other, but the tryst is never completed as Jacques returns home to his apartment and discusses it with his friend Mathieu (Denis Podalydès). We learn he lives here with his young son and are greeted with a former flame, at the last stages of AIDS related illness, desperate for help.
In Brittany, cocky 22 year old Arthur (Lacoste) is toying with his homosexuality, much to the increasing frustration of is she/is she girlfriend Isabelle (Sophie Letourneur).
A chance encounter at a cinema sees Jacques and the very flirtatious Arthur meet. With Arthur’s bravado in full charm offensive mode, and Jacques – some 15+ years his senior – feeling the rush of being wanted again, the pair forge a connection.
Jacques has baggage, guilt and an overarching sense of his own mortality. Arthur has brashness and romanticism. Where could this lead?
What triumphs in Honoré’s work here is that he treads a very fine line of what could descend into soapy melodrama but never does. The film moves with a subtlety, it never manipulates you into feeling one way or another, and it refreshingly keeps the conversations spritely and insightful.
Both Lacoste and Deladonchamps are in top form here, the former has never been better, as both characters are fully realised. They possess great positives and negatives. They treat people with kindness and, alternately, cruelly. There’s selflessness and selfishness. There’s cause and consequence.
Yet none of it comes across hamfisted or without the care for the characters at play. There’s resonance here, thematic elements that are timeless and touch on thoughts and emotions ever so softly.