Nous Trois -- Film Review

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TAORMINA, Sicily -- A few memorable films, including Carol Reed's "The Fallen Idol" and Joseph Losey's "The Go-Between," have observed complex adult relationships through the eyes of a naive child. Renaud Bertrand's "Nous Trois" can be added to this short but distinguished list. With attractive stars Emmanuelle Beart and Stefano Accorsi in the leading roles, the picture should appeal to an enterprising distributor. But it will need careful handling to attract an appreciative audience.

The film is set in 1972, and 6-year-old Sebastien (the marvelous Nathan Georgelin) is bored with his suburban existence. His father (Jacques Gamblin) is an unsuccessful inventor who spends most of his time in the basement working on mysterious new projects, barely interacting with the family. His teenage brother has little time for Sebastien, and his grandfather is falling into senility. Sebastien feels most attached to his mother, Marie (Beart), but even she frequently seems distracted.

When a young couple moves into the neighborhood, Sebastien's world becomes a lot more interesting. He feels that the handsome Philippe (Accorsi), a railroad conductor, might be a more perfect match for his mother than his absent father, and Sebastien does what he can to bring them together. Soon Marie and Philippe have plunged into a passionate affair that will have unexpected and devastating consequences for both families.

At first Philippe's effusive but bubble-brained wife, Michele (Audrey Dana), seems as if she will be easily discarded. But when Michele announces that she is pregnant, everything changes. Philippe's ardor for Marie cools, though she pursues him almost as fiercely and dementedly as Glenn Close stalked Michael Douglas in "Fatal Attraction." This movie, however, is no Hollywood melodrama but a much more serious and poignant study of twisted passion.

The actors give the movie much of its depth. Bertrand says he cast Beart because he felt that beneath her sensual beauty lay hints of a darker, more melancholy sensibility. One wishes that the script had relied a little less on Beart's presence and provided a bit more insight into the sources of Marie's discontent.

Accorsi captures Philippe's devil-may-care sexiness as well as an underlying hardness. Dana highlights Michele's cluelessness without turning her into a caricature. Similarly, Sachat Briquet as the grandfather strikes exactly the right balance between humor and pathos. Georgelin is one of those marvelous child actors who always seems natural rather than cloying.

Perhaps the most telling performance comes from Gamblin, who gradually reveals the hidden strength in a character who initially seems impossibly immature. At the end, the father manages to take charge of a fractured family, offering a ray of hope in what might have been a devastatingly dark film. Although the script might have cut a little deeper, "Nous Trois" still arrives at a heart-rending conclusion.

Venue: Taormina Film Festival
Cast: Emmanuelle Beart, Jacques Gamblin, Stefano Accorsi, Nathan Georgelin, Audrey Dana, Sachat Briquet, Pierre Bertre
Director: Renaud Bertrand
Screenwriters: Renaud Bertrand, Virginie Chanu
Producer: Fabio Conversi
Director of photography: Yves Cape
Production designer: Christina Schaffer
Music: Andre Dziezuk, Marc Mergen
Costume designer: Uli Simon
Editors: Abeelle, Felix Sorger
No rating, 90 minutes
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