An Impossible Love review: France is a country notorious for its romantic gestures and love-filled atmosphere so it’s only fitting that An Impossible Love, an aching romance, is of French origin.
Rachel (Virginie Efrie) has a beautiful relationship with the lovely, but at times, troubled Philippe (Niels Schneider). However, their love for one another is strong and the pair share many moments of intimacy with one another during their time together. When Rachel ends up pregnant, however, she finds herself having to raise her daughter alone – Philippe couldn’t care less, out there doing his own thing and living his own life – but succeeds, despite the trials and tribulations in her path. The film follows her relationship with her daughter Chantal (played lovingly by Estelle Lescure and Jehnny Beth in her adolescence and adulthood respectively) over the course of many years, a close relation; although, when Philippe resurfaces in both their lives and starts flowing in and out of the picture, things begin to seem complex for the seemingly strong relationship that Rachel and Chantal share. But, as time goes on, this divide only seems to push them further apart and we follow their ups and downs throughout their life.
An Impossible Love starts out on a strong note – Philippe and Rachel’s relationship is elegantly and quickly established; we follow them in their blissful love and it’s quite the delight – it’s sumptuous and warm and blissfully romantic… but then, around about an hour or so in, it sort of hits the brakes and slowly starts to just become progressively more dull and conventional as it goes on. The writing is to blame; it just seems like the screenplay wears its concept thin – evidently a lot more mawkish in the second half – and becomes rather repetitive in its nature. It becomes a vicious cycle of “Philippe and Rachel love one another; Rachel realises Philippe is no good for her; Philippe disappears for a few years then reappears, supposedly changed” for around about two hours – swapping Chantal out for Rachel about half way through and having her watch from the sidelines instead. Whilst it works for a while, it soon starts to drag.
The performances, however, are wonderful; Schneider is terrific as the arrogant Philippe – often quite stoic and impassioned. There’s a bluntness to his delivery and a stone cold look in his eye that keeps him hard to root for; similarly to Chantal and Rachel though, when he wants to be a warm presence then he’s quite the charmer that is hard to dislike – this constantly changing acting is fascinating to watch and he pulls it off well. However, it’s Efrie that steals the show; there’s a kindness and subtlety to her performance that keeps her an easy central character to root for. It’s her paternal dynamic with Chantal that is easily the most interesting aspect of the story and her chemistry with all 3 actresses in the role is effortless and delightful to watch – it’s their back-and-forth that make for some of the best scenes in the film.
There’s a lot to like about An Impossible Love. It’s beautifully shot, the camera dances excitedly around it’s characters in such wonderful ways and really chews up the wonderful Parisian scenery; the relationships are refreshingly complex and the performances are all superb. However, the film struggles with maintaining the momentum established early on and, as a result, feels quite uneven and tedious towards the middle and final acts. It remains watchable thanks to its magnetic cast but becomes rather dull and impossible to love – a shame too, given it starts off brilliantly.
An Impossible Love review by Awais Irfan, October 2018.
An Impossible Love was reviewed at the 2018 BFI London Film Festival.