Erwan Le Duc closes Critics Week with this relentlessly whimsical father/daughter comedy-drama

No Love Lost

Source: Cannes International Film Festival

‘No Love Lost’

Dir/scr. Erwan Le Duc. France. 2023. 90mins

A profoundly whimsical story - interpretative dance alert! - about a young single father whose daughter is about to fly the coop, No Love Lost is Erwan Le Du’s second feature after The Bare Necessity and closes out Critics Week 2023 with a flight of fancifulness. Between his ice-cream aesthetic and an orchestral score which is so dominant it can make the film look like accompanying imagery, Le Duc struggles to get to the heart of what he is saying, spinning off into flimsy sequences which sometimes make the film look like it is being made up as it goes along.

Biscayart’s performance wobbles off in the direction of mime

There is a lightness to this comedy-drama, however, which should see it appeal at home, helped by the appearance of BPM’s Nahuel Perez Biscayart as dad Etienne and rising star Celeste Brunnquell playing daughter Rosa. Noemie Lvovsky also drops in for one scene to over-play a bizarrely aggressive local mayor in a sequence which is textbook making-the-most-of-your-cameo.

Le Duc starts the proceedings with Biscayart playing a naive 17 year-old, and it’s a testament to the actor that he can physically convey that age with no support beyond lighting, exaggerated doe-eyes and a football shirt. In a dialogue-free, eight-minute pre-credit sequence set to an orchestral score, he is shown meeting and impregnating a woman, Valerie (Mercedes Dassy), who will haunt the rest of the film. Both she and the narration disappear, though, and Etienne is left to bring up Rosa alone. Rosa grows up to be played by Brunnquell but Etienne never really changes, to the detriment of the film. Now the time has come for Rosa to fly the nest to art school in Metz, and for Etienne to move forward with his girlfriend Helene (Maude Wyler), who still doesn’t sleep over. But it’s difficult for him, as his style of parenting runs to the obsessive.

Over-riding the narrative is the director’s concept that Rosa’s irritating boyfriend, Youssef (Mohammed Louridi), has written an ode/poem/book to Etienne and Rosa and their relationship, which is quoted throughout. Etienne and Helene also quote their own love letters to each other. Add that to the attention-seeking score and it becomes a little challenging for the viewer, even at a brief 90 minutes, to relax into the jarring mix of whimsy with flimsy narrative as the film lurches off in various directions, adopting an increasingly Wes Anderson-esque colour palette as Biscayart’s performance wobbles off in the direction of mime.

At one point, for example, Etienne falls downstairs after an argument with Rosa (she may have pushed him), ends up in hospital with a drip, undergoes a hallucination of his former partner performing said interpretative dance, runs down the road in his hospital gown – complete with drip – and gets on the back of a garbage truck. Next stop, Portugal, as he has seen Rosa’s mother there on a TV news segment. There are copious flashbacks too. Etienne is certainly taking Rosa’s move to college hard, and it spills over to the rest of his life. Occasionally he works as a football coach for an amateur league, but mostly Biscayart’s performance is exaggerated to the point where Le Doc’s narrative fill-ins become superfluous. Dialogue is limited beyond the quoting of verse.

Ultimately, the parts of a film that tend to come together to deliver a whole are each demanding their own separate housing. The score is off shouting to the rooftop, Biscayart is playing to the back rows, the screenplay is a mix of competing elements, with the narrative losing out to the conceptual. The comedy is jarringly broad – say, for example, Youssef insisting on clambering up the front porch to Rosa’s bedroom window when Etienne’s front door is open wide. 

An interesting exercise, though, is to imagine a reversal of the sexes of all the players – director Le Duc, Etienne as a single mother, Rosa as her son, Youssef etc. That it could be read as an exercise of a male writing, directing and starring in a traditional female film-making zone makes it a more fascinating proposition conceptually than it ultimately is on screen.

Production company: Domino Films

International sales: Playtime,

Producers: Stephanie Bermann, Alexis Dalguerian

Screenplay: Erwan Le Duc

Cinematography: Alexis Kavyrchine

Production design: Astrid Tonnellier

Editing: Julie Dupre

Music: Julie Roue

Main cast: Nahum Perez Biscayart. Celeste Brunnquell, Maude Wyler. Mohamed Louridi, Mercedes Dassy, Noemie Lvovsky