‘Anais in Love’ Review: Portrait of an Escaping Woman

What gets Anaïs up and running? This is the question that is subtly mocked in “Anaïs in Love,” a French romance about a woman’s devious journey towards self-discovery. Like Anaïs herself, the outlines of this journey seem transparently clear at first: she is young, selfish, exceedingly restless, and just needs to get her act together. Still, all these crazy moves (just like her) can seem a little tempting (as well as her) but can also be infuriating, which makes Anaïs and this movie more interesting than they might seem at first.

When you first see the fast-moving Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier in a fickle, full-bodied performance), a colorful blur, camera and soundtrack racing her as she races towards her Paris apartment. Graduate student Anaïs is behind in the rental and rushes to meet her landlord. She has an explanation, of course, and while the bewildered landlord encourages her to pay, Anaïs rummages through the apartment, detailing her problems, changing her clothes and setting a fire alarm, a fire herald. The words fly like Anaïs testing the patience of both the host and the audience in minutes.

In her feature film debut, writer-director Charline Bourgeois-Tacquet treats the opening with economy, confidence, light comedy, and a sense of choreographed chaos. Still, as Anaïs kept running, I oddly scribbled in my notes that the director was testing our patience with this chick. I was right, though not entirely. It took him a while to realize that it is not necessary to love Anaïs. The important thing is that you stick with her, listen to what she says and doesn’t say, look below the shyness to understand what drives this woman – to see her for what she is.

“Anais in Love” seems simple. It looks crisp and bright and moves as lively as its protagonist, with editing and live music doing more remarkable work than discreet cinematography. Bourgeois-Tacquet works within the idiom of a realistic Euro-art film in the early 21st century, and the world he creates is familiar, precise and appealing. There is no plot or plot, or so it seems, like loosely put together scenes where Anaïs goes here and there visiting people and places. As she does, Anaïs emerges piecemeal in conversations and her choices of good and bad, a disintegration that encourages you to put the spinning pieces together.

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