Dr: Philippe Lioret. France. 2011. 120mins


It’s a true story and a sad one. That is, most of it is sad, with a sort of redeeming happy ending to sweeten the pill. All Our Desires (Tous nos envies) is the story of young magistrate (Marie Gillain) fighting for justice against a corrupt system, while losing her battle against a  brain tumor which she refuses to treat, since there is no escape from the impending death sentence. On paper, it may all look terribly emotional, even devastating, but Philippe Lioret - whose recent Welcome scored with both critics and public - somehow manages to defuse the potential drama of the story, offering instead a bland version of the events that instead of moving audiences to tears risks drawing only resigned yawns.

Somehow no exchange on the screen and no development seems to be sufficiently motivated or prepared by the script. 

Claire Conti (Marie Gillain), a young, energetic judge who believes her role is to respect the spirit of the law rather than its routine practices, has to rule over the case of over-indebted Celine (Amandine Dewasmes), who can’t pay back all the money she owes to different loan sharks. Claire’s verdict doesn’t please the higher instances, she is suspected of being biased in favor of the accused and her decision is annulled.

In comes a more experienced but far less innocent magistrate, Stephane (Vincent Lindon), who tries to cancel the debts of poor, sweet Celine but again, to no avail in the long run. Both Claire and Stephane have separate, but very satisfactory family lives, which are inevitably shaken once the two of them join forces to change the course of law. 

Here, however, there is another insurmountable factor coming in – Claire is being told that she has to undergo immediate chemotherapy if she is to survive just a few months more. Since the treatment can have no salutary effect and her death sentence is clear, Claire not only turns down the doctors’ recommendations, she also keeps the entire thing secret from her husband and kids, arguing they couldn’t possibly handle the situation. 

Instead, she surreptitiously prepares Celine to take over her place in the family, first by bringing her and her two children into their home and then by bestowing on her not only her entire trust but even her personal perfume, the one she uses to spray her breasts with to the delight of her husband.

Whether this is exactly the way things happened or not (Lioret himself says he has betrayed Carrere’s book with the author’s permission), the result looks entirely manipulated, fake and arbitrary all through. Claire’s character is far too angelic to allow anything but saintly admiration. Whatever the film’s dialogue may have to say, Vincent Lindon, who was so effective in Welcome looks, walks and acts far more like a tough rugby trainer (which he is in his spare time) than a magistrate.

Somehow no exchange on the screen and no development seems to be sufficiently motivated or prepared by the script.  The legal side of the plot is muddled, certainly for those who are not particularly familiar with the French law, while Claire’s personal tragedy has been much better and more sensitively dealt with in such films as Isabel Coixet’s Life Without Me. And there is no possible reason for the film’s running time, when so many unnecessary shots look as if they were kept in just to reach two hours.

Production companies: Fin Aout Productions

International sales: Other Angle Pictures, otheranglepics@gmail.com

Producers: Pnilippe Lioret, Marielle Duigou

Screenplay: Philippe Lioret, Emmanuel Courcol, based on Emmanuel Carrere’s novel D’autres vies que la mienne

Cinematography: Gilles Henry

Editor: Andrea Sedlackova

Production designer: Yves Brover

Music: Flemming Nordkrog

Cast: Marie Gillain, Vincent Lindon,Amandine Dewasmes, Yannick Renier, Pascale Arbillot, Isabelle Renauld, Laure Duthilleul