Resembling nothing so much as a contemporary genre riff on a typical bodice-ripper, Rendez-Vous seems oblivious to the likelihood that a highly implausible romance that isn’t actually a comedy risks courting ridicule. Narrowly saved from that fate by a singularly strange shift in tone late in the final act, Dutch filmmaker Antoinette Beumer’s latest female-centric family drama may find adherents at home, but will need more than good will to travel very far beyond broadcast bookings.
In a set-up resembling a less-charming version of A Year in Provence that’s instead been transplanted to the eastern region of France, Dutch couple Simone (Loes Haverkort) and Eric (Mark van Eeuwen), along with their two kids, relocate to a countryside farmhouse formerly owned by Simone’s recently deceased mother with plans for renovating the decrepit structure and opening a rustic B&B. Eric, having quit his demanding day job, has taken on the overwhelming task of structural renewal, while Simone is preoccupied with plans for decorating and looking after young Suzanne (Evi van der Laken) and Bastian (Bobby van Vieuten).
Luckily enough, Dutch contractor Peter (Peter Paul Muller) operates out of the adjacent village, filled with stereotypically small-minded residents who have somehow mostly avoided the vagaries of the Schengen zone until the unexpected arrival of the Dutch family. Eric and Simone find the house so run-down that they’re forced to live in a trailer on the property while renovations are underway with the support of Peter’s construction crew, paid for with Simone’s generous inheritance. Among the construction workers, hunky Michel (Pierre Boulanger) immediately catches Simone’s wandering eye, sparking an unexpected romance that threatens not only her long-standing marriage, but also her plans for a new future with her family in the refurbished farmhouse.
It’s somewhat unclear whether the script, co-written by Dorien Goertzen and Marjolein Beumer, actually intends to be as brazenly myopic as it plays onscreen. With no clear or defensible justification for Simone’s betrayal of her husband and kids, the screenwriters could hardly rationalize her headlong plunge into a torrid, barely concealed affair. When they’re eventually forced to confront the consequences of their dalliance, the lovers’ response is so outrageous that it overshadows even the implausibility of their shaky relationship.
Haverkort, whose fresh-faced winsomeness is a poor match for the plot’s later dark turns, struggles to create much of an impression beyond that of a moonstruck housewife led astray by her abundance of bad judgment. Still, it’s more of an impact than the men can muster, as they’re too distracted by their competing personal agendas to relate to Simone as anything more than an object of desire or derision.
Undeterred by the implausible plot, Beumer establishes a realistic setting with the farmhouse renovation and delivers a few idealized moments with the impassioned lovers, but overall appears rather stylistically uninspired, other than an unnecessary over-reliance on an aerial camera drone.
Venue: Santa Barbara International Film Festival
Production company: Millstreet Films
Cast: Loes Haverkort, Mark van Eeuwen, Pierre Boulanger, Peter Paul Muller, Jennifer Hoffman, Bobby van Vieuten, Evi van der Laken
Director: Antoinette Beumer
Screenwriters: Marjolein Beumer, Dorien Goertzen
Producer: Rachel van Bommel
Executive producer: Koji Nelissen
Director of photography: Jeroen de Bruin
Production designer: Kurt Loyens
Costume designers: Manon Blom, Mariella Kallenberg
Editor: Marc Bechtold
Music: Merlijn Snitker
Casting director: Leonie Luttik
Not rated, 100 minutes