An Impossible Love: Dark family drama where terrible things happen

Review: Viewers who know Christine Angot's novels and public persona will know the story

Impossible Love
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Director: Catherine Corsini
Cert: 16
Genre: Drama
Starring: Virginie Efira, Niels Schneider, Jehnny Beth, Estelle Lescure
Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins

Early on in a French drama whose lovely wide-screen photography and elegant performances do little to prepare us for coming darkness, Rachel (Virginie Efira) meets Philippe (Niels Schneider), a young self-indentifying intellectual, in the work canteen.

It is the 1950s. He begins telling her about Friedrich Nietzsche. He can't decide whether to lend her a copy of Beyond Good and Evil or Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Oh God.

It’s that guy! It’s the guy who, 60 years later, insists upon following women around with Jordan Peterson books.

Anyway, Rachel falls for the chap – despite iffy remarks about her Jewish background – and they begin a very French, very sweaty relationship. Rachel eventually has Philippe’s daughter, Chantal, but he makes it clear that he has no interest in settling down. They split. Chantal grows. Rachel gets a job in a mental institution and, a decade or so later, the couple are reunited.


Viewers familiar with the semi-autobiographical novels (and the public persona) of Christine Angot will have some idea where the story is going and will grasp ambiguities in the title, but, narrated by Chantal in versions of the author’s prose, this difficult saga spanning many decades will still exert a grip. There is something of a soap opera about it.

There are incidental efforts to offer social-historical comment on France in turbulent times. But it is the characterisation that really holds the attention.

Following on from Leaving, a drama with Kristin Scott Thomas, and Summertime, an admirable lesbian romance with Cécile de France, director Catherine Corsini draws a long-suffering performance from Efira and a layered, properly infuriating one from Schneider.

Some very terrible things happen, but she never allows the picture so slip into melodrama. We don’t always understand why people do the things they do, but we don’t doubt that they would do those things.


Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist