All Our Desires (Toutes nos envies): Venice Film Review

Venice Film Festival
Well-acted French social drama leaves much to be desired.

French writer-director Philippe Lioret teams up with Vincent Lindon and Marie Gillain for a tale about a judge who helps an impoverished friend take on the French banking system.

Following his touching tale of contemporary immigration, Welcome, writer-director Philippe Lioret once again teams up with actor Vincent Lindon (Pater) for another socially-minded melodrama in All Our Desires (Toutes nos envies). But whereas the previous film was carried by its strong performances and gripping subject matter, there’s something too plodding and sentimental about this story of a terminally ill judge (Marie Gillain) who helps an impoverished friend take on the French banking system. If Welcome traveled well overseas, Desires plays more like a made-for-TV movie whose viewers will be predominantly Francophone.

Combining the very hot-button issue of consumer credit scams with a tear-jerking tale of a young mother’s final days, this seventh feature by Lioret has Lifetime Network written all over it. At best, it offers up another occasion for Lindon to convincingly play a tough guy with a conscience, while gorgeous co-star Gillain (Coco before Chanel) provides a graceful presence that’s too often watered down by feel-good dialogues and endless string music (by Danish composer Flemming Nordkrog).

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Freely adapting from novelist Emmanuel Carrere’s bestselling book, D’autres vies que la mienne (Lives Other Than My Own) – whose various real life stories include one which was expanded in the script – Lioret and regular co-writer Emmanuel Courcol have shaped a narrative that has its heart in the right place, yet lacks emotional depth. This is particularly evident during the film’s drawn out third part, which heads in predictable directions without further developing the main characters, who remain mostly formulaic throughout.


When we first meet the 32-year-old Claire (Gillain), she’s judging a case in Lyon, which involves a fellow parent, Celine (Amandine Dewasmes), pursued in court by various creditors. In the next sequence, Claire is face to face with a doctor (Isabelle Renauld) telling her she has what amounts to an untreatable form of brain cancer. Put two and two together, and it’s clear that as Claire heads towards her deathbed, she’s going to do what it takes to defend Celine against the menacing financial behemoths. At the same time, Claire decides not to tell her husband (Yannick Renier) or children about the illness, apparently to spare them the suffering.

A more intriguing element is soon added with the arrival of Stephane (Lindon), a kindhearted confrere who agrees to partner with Claire and help fight a massive bank fraud where consumers are tricked into taking loans they can’t afford to pay back. Claire and Stephane’s relationship, which remains on the platonic side despite a few hints of something more, provides the film with its two strongest sequences: one involving an improvised trip to a pastoral lake; the other an endearing scene where Claire attends a rugby match of the team Stephane coaches.

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But such moments cannot sustain what’s otherwise a rather sappy and lumbering affair, and one whose political agenda is not necessarily what it cracks up to be. Does somebody have to be terminally ill to suddenly decide that people are getting bamboozled by powerful banks? Is it more responsible for Claire to help a friend, or to spend her final months with her family? Such questions are ultimately glossed over in this smoothly shot (by Gilles Henry, Priceless) production, which scores a few points for its solid acting but fails to get its message – however jumbled – across.

Section: Venice Days
Sales: Other Angle Pictures
Production companies: Fin Aout, Mars Films, France 3 Cinema, Rhone-Alpes Cinema, Mac Guff Ligne, Nord-Ouest Films
Cast: Vincent Lindon, Marie Gillain, Amandine Dewasmes, Yannick Renier, Pascale Arbillot, Isabelle Renauld, Laure Duthilleul, Emmanuel Courcol
Director: Philippe Lioret
Screenwriters: Philippe Lioret, Emmanuel Courcol
Inspired by the novel by: Emmanuel Carrere
Producers: Philippe Lioret, Marielle Duigou
Director of photography: Gilles Henry
Production designer: Yves Brover
Costume designer: Anne Dunsford
Editor: Andrea Sedlackova
Music: Flemming Nordkrog
No rating, 120 minutes