Dir. Lorraine Levy. Fr, 2008. 98 min
An idea that probably sounded good on paper - starting with the best-seller status of Marc Levy's source novel - proves inconsequential on screen in My Friends, My Loves, a London-set romantic comedy about two divorced French fathers who chafe at strict ground rules while sharing a house in the UK capital. Benignly watchable, but contrived, My Friends benefits from a game cast who all do their best to flesh out cardboard characters. But ultimately, viewers have very little stake in the story's insular band of transplanted French people plunked down in a handsome but hollow London that requires no English (either language or people) and zero embrace of local customs.
A sideways move for director Lorraine Levy (Marc's sister) after her promising 2004 debut The First Time I Was 20, this will probably travel further than both sides of the English Channel. But, beyond France (where it benefits from a hearty ad campaign), this July 2 release seems unlikely to make a memorable commercial dent.
Levy has penned some 25 produced scripts for TV but her co-adaptation here lacks the punch the big screen requires. Even the bracketing device - an at-first unidentified man's voice saying 'It all started in Paris nearly a year ago' - doesn't mesh with the action, which seems to transpire over a far briefer period of time.
After Paris book store employee Mathias (Lindon) is sacked in an amusing scene, he decides to join his best friend Antoine (Elbe) in London, where the unambiguously named French Bookshop needs a manager. Mathias' nine-year-old daughter Emilie (Garance Le Guillermic) has been livingin London with her mother Catherine (Sodupe) since the couple divorced three years ago.
Successful architect Antoine, meanwhile, who loves to cook, is raising his son Louis (Tom Invernizzi) alone. Still stung by his wife's departure, Antoine is oblivious to the yearning beamed his way by French florist Sophie (Foresti).
The film's Frenchified London street is also home to a bistro run by jovially maternal pot-smoking senior citizen Yvonne (Laffont, in an appealing turn.) Antoine's construction foreman, Mac Kenzie (Mlekuz) has a crush on Yvonne although he's several decades her junior.
Mathias' vertigo surfaces when customer Audrey (Ledoyen) - a Paris-based journalist on assignment for a French publication that must have a bottomless budget and no deadlines - asks him to climb a ladder to fetch a vintage tome. Mathias' fear of heights plays more like a Plot Device in neon than an actual affliction.
The two are an instant item for no discernible reason. But Mathias' new romance is incompatible with the firm rule against bringing women home. And Audrey reacts badly when faced with seeming evidence that Mathias still has the hots for his ex-wife. In a parallel misunderstanding, Mathias and Antoine go from fast friends to borderline enemies. One of the story's few bursts of originality has their industrious offspring engineering a reconciliation.
Playing here a non-committal nice guy with a tepid rebellious streak, Lindon's hangdog charm, so evident in last year's Je crois que je l'aime opposite Sandrine Bonnaire and Ceux qui restent opposite Emmanuelle Devos, seems to have vanished during his character's trip to the UK.
While the original instrumental score is adequate, the soundtrack's use of English-language songs is distractingly unsubtle.
Pathe Evidence Films
(33) 1 71 72 30 00
Romain Le Grand