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Even those who hardly speak a word of French know what the expression ménage à trois means. And while it may be impossible to prove that the act itself was invented in France, it’s safe to say that it’s been brought to a certain level of perfection there. That’s at least the evidence provided by such films as Jules and Jim, A Woman is a Woman, Les Valseuses or Bernardo Bertolucci’s May ’68 sexcapade, The Dreamers.
The latest variation on the genre is writer-director Jerome Bonnell’s All About Them – whose much better original title translates to “Let’s go the three of us!” And that definitely sums up the spirit of this playful, well-performed dramedy about two girls and a guy who try out various amorous configurations before realizing that three is not a crowd, but maybe the right fit. Featuring the talented Anais Demoustier (Bird People) as the third wheel to a couple played by Felix Moati (Hippocrates) and newcomer Sophie Verbeeck, this very Gallic undertaking could drum up interest in markets catering to viewers who like their French films loose-limbed and a bit naughty.
Bonnell’s previous outing was the Emmanuelle Devos–Gabriel Byrne romance Just a Sigh, which captured the ups and downs of a Franco-Irish couple having an illicit affair over the course of a day. This time he makes the fling last longer and tosses a third party into the mix, but his goal is similar: capturing the conflicting emotions experienced by people falling in and out of love or otherwise falling into bed. Or sometimes all three.
The film hits the ground running when budding criminal lawyer, Melodie (Demoustier), arrives at the door of her galfriend, Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck), only to find that the latter’s b.f., Micha (Moati), has just returned from a research trip in the country. The catch is that in the interim, Melodie and Charlotte have started sleeping together – unbeknownst of course to Micha, who’s just happy to be back home. Soon enough, he winds up falling for Melodie as well.
The young attorney now finds herself caught between a couple on the verge of separating, with both members completely smitten by her. Cue up lots of quid pro quos involving text messages, dinner dates, hiding in closets, hot sex on the floor of a law firm, and an extended party scene where all three lovebirds are forced to beat around the bush, so to speak.
Bonnell has always had a way with actors, and these tragic-comic moments give rising star Demoustier a chance to showcase her chops. In one scene she’s making an openly erotic declaration of love, in the next she’s hilariously defending a serial pervert in court. Having already captivated in films like Pascale Ferran’s Bird People and Francois Ozon’s The New Girlfriend, Demoustier is clearly one of the more talented French actresses to emerge on the scene in a while. If she plays her cards right, she could very well become the next Isabelle Huppert, freckles and all.
Verbeeck and Moati also give strong turns, and the latter convincingly plays a guy wavering between a full-on orgasm and a full-on nervous breakdown. For some that may be a particularly tough position to be in, while other viewers may see Micha as the luckiest man on earth – or at least in France.
The latter sentiment is likely to prevail when the story slides into a rather expedited denouement, and the inevitable winds up happening. Yet Bonnell keeps at least one surprise in store for the very end, although it’s unfortunate he doesn’t deal more with the possibilities elicited by this kind of romantic trio. Perhaps he takes the easy exit here, yet All of Them ultimately goes the way of many ménage à trois films that preceded it: Threesomes may be fun, but they rarely make it to the closing credits.
Production companies: Rectangle Productions, Wild Bunch, France 3 Cinema, Scope Pictures
Cast: Anais Demoustier, Felix Moati, Sophie Verbeeck
Director: Jerome Bonnell
Screenwriter: Jerome Bonnell, in collaboration with Mael Piriou
Producer: Edouard Weil
Director of photography: Pascal Lagriffoul
Production designers: Eugenie Collett, Florence Vercheval
Costume designer: Carole Gerard
Editors: Julie Dupre
Composer: Mike Higbee
Casting director: Isabelle Ungaro
International sales: Versatile
No rating, 86 minutes
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