Just a Sigh/Le Temps de l’Aventure

Just a Sigh
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Director: Jerome Bonnell
Cert: Club
Genre: Romance
Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Gabriel Byrne, Gilles Privat
Running Time: 1 hr 45 mins

There are few more durable narrative templates than the one that involves two people meeting in an unlikely situation and enjoying a brief, hurried romance over an afternoon, day or couple of weeks. This latest successor to Brief Encounter is a puzzling but diverting quasi-romance, set during a frustrating day in the French capital.

Emmanuelle Devos plays an actor travelling from Calais to Paris between two performances. While on the train she catches the eye of an Anglophone stranger played, with mysterious depths, by our own Gabriel Byrne. She allows another passenger to give him directions and makes her way to an audition.

Later, they brush up against one another and begin an angular, uncomfortable romance. They speak in the sort of gnomic riddles that only inhabitants of French films can successfully carry off. “You have a gregarious jaw,” Byrne tells Devos at one point. She runs out of cash. She can’t get her partner on the phone. She visits her sister and has another of (it seems) many violent fallings out.

Such a beast is always going to stand or fall on the interaction between its leads. Devos and Byrne manage a defiant class of unstable chemistry. We can see why he is attracted to her (for all her lack of control). It’s much less clear why she is drawn to an older, strangely disconnected, ever-so-slightly sinister piece of work.


That peculiar tension works nicely. But Just a Sigh is also to be recommended for a series of bravura camera moves about the buzzing streets of Paris. There's not much dynamism in the relationships. But the cinematography fairly surges. A decent middlebrow French treat of the old school.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

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