Dir: Mathieu Urfer. Switzerland. 2014. 82mins
The first rule for anyone attempting to direct a romantic comedy is to endear his protagonists on the audience and then make sure that despite whatever breakups and clashes they go through, they are holding hands and preferably kissing in the last frame. Mathieu Urfer, a TV writer and musician making his feature debut, doesn’t forget that final rule - his lovers indeed do hold hands - but there is serious doubt whether the audience would care that.
Gillieron, who looks a lot like Johnny Depp but lacks the particular hallucinatory poetic dimension of the American star, presents Sami as a kind of vacant, indifferent person, no more than a likeable home pet.
The strangely contrived script, which Urfer wrote with Joanne Giger, starts with country singer Sami (Baptiste Gillieron, a singer in his own right) playing small bars around the country, who accidentally meets Julia (Julia Faure) at a closed gas station. Two minutes later in the film a and they are already four years into a relationship, sharing her flat and about to separate, for the simple reason that they seem to have very little in common.
She makes good money and looks for all purposes like a rather stuck-up but successful, up-and-coming female executive. He is a happy-go-lucky, sloppy, absent-minded kind of guy. One could almost tag him as a Swiss incarnation of Llewyn Davis, had he been showing just a little bit more interest and involvement in his music, or for that matter, anything else in life except his obsessive love for Julia.
When she tells him she needs a break to reassess their affair, he doesn’t really understand what’s wrong, though everybody watching the film would have guessed at first glance. Whether she does it to move in with her boss, Lionel (Nils Althaus) or for any other reason doesn’t really matter that much.
For the rest of the script, put together loosely with all kinds of not very original incidents and characters, thrown in and out without much reason, Sami will constantly try to get her love back, following the unadvisable advices of his guitarist Fernand (Andre Wilms), an alcoholic old man whose prostate is giving up on him. In between, he and goes back to sleeping in his car as he did when they first met, then he moves in for a while with a well-to-do friend who snorts and drinks everything in sight; he is caught by a roving camera making love to a stranger; he is back in the flat he claimed to have left (the script evidently missed explaining that detail), all the while pursuing his uneventful career from one bar to another, drinking with Fernand and listening to his morality lessons. The soundtrack, which is of course essential in this case, is pleasant all through, but like the performer himself nice rather than memorable.
Gillieron, who looks a lot like Johnny Depp but lacks the particular hallucinatory poetic dimension of the American star, presents Sami as a kind of vacant, indifferent person, no more than a likeable home pet. If sex is the reason for Julia to stay with him for over four years, neither the script nor the direction, ever take the trouble to suggest it. And if his music is the reason she will ultimately go back to him, there doesn’t seem to be that much of a future in store for them.
Julia Faure looks adequately disenchanted with her boyfriend’s behavior, though why she should expect anything better from him is not quite clear. Much of the tongue-in-cheek humor is provided by Wilms, who together with another old Aki Kaurismaki hand, cinematographer Timo Salminen, offers the most creative contribution.
Production company: Box Productions
Contact: Picture Tree International, www.picturetree-international.com
Producers: Elodie Brunner, Thierry Spicher, Elena Tatti
Screenplay: Martin Urfer, Joanna Giger
Cinematography: Timo Salminen
Editor: Yannick Leroy
Production designer: Regis Marduel
Music: Mathieu Urfer, John Woolloff, Luft – Marcin de Morsier, Ariel Garcia
Main cast: Batiste Gillieron, Julia Faure, Andre Wilms, Nils Althaus, Roland Vouilloz, Nicole Letuppe, Margherita Coldesina, Baptiste Coustenoble, Helene Barbry