English Title: Sorry Angel
Original Title: Plaire, aimer et courir vite
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director/Writer: Christophe Honoré
Cinematography: Rémy Chevrin
A meet-cute between a Parisian author Jacques (Deladonchamps) and a much younger student Arthur (Lacoste) from Brittany in 1993, French filmmaker Christophe Honoré’s Cannes entry, SORRY ANGEL, unflinchingly sets its unsentimental tone upon a well-trodden story-line: a right-person-wrong-time scenario scourged by the Aids epidemic.
Mustering a jaunty rhythm that traces Jacques and Arthur’s paralleled lives, the former halfheartedly sends off his romantic tentacle towards Jean-Marie (Thébault), a yobbish lad, and soon receives a telephone message from his Aids-afflict ex-lover Marco (Gonzalez), pleading for a place to stay, which prompts his own awareness of infection.
Meantime, in Brittany, Arthur embraces his newly discovered homosexuality by cruising the gay haunts with alacrity, much to the disaffection of his girlfriend Nadine (Wismes), a visit in Brittany brings Jacques to the cinema where a coup de foudre crops up during a screening of Jane Campion’s Palme d’oro winner THE PIANO (1993). Fully aware of his current situation, Jacques refrains from committing a new relationship and the pair keeps contact with letters and long-distance phone calls. When Jacques finally makes his first phone call, Arthur is in bed with a new fling Stéphane (Malinowski), the fact that he would prefer listening and talking to Jacques’ categorization of four different types of love interest, than the physical accompany right in propinquity, speaks volumes of their mutual attraction, and Honoré nimble-handedly applies a visual masterstroke to bring them under the same roof.
Battling his urge to meet Arthur, and compounded by the passing of Marco and the mortal fear of being HIV positive, Jacques’ health starts to deteriorate, Arthur finally comes to Paris for the first time, after initially staving him off, Jacques finally meets him and they spend a quality time together with Mathieu (Podalydès), Jacques neighbor and best friend. The movie closes when Arthur is waiting for a call from Jacques to tell him that he decides to move to Paris with him, yet Jacques doesn’t call back as he makes up his mind to take his life with his own hands.
Characteristically brisk, Honoré tactically balances out somber sign-of-the-times episodes with Gallic frolics and cheeky humor (an actress sonorously prattling about sundry ailments, oblivious that Arthur is tailing behind her and Jacques is plumb funny), and he treats Jacques’ quagmire with no-holds-barred candor, the openness of his parenting method, a touching bath-sharing moment with Marco is both wry and intimate, a seize-the-day momentum epically falls by the wayside when driving long distance and listening melancholic chanson from the radio, and it is with Mathieu he shares the heart-rending adieu, not Arthur, who is too young to be embroiled into that kind of turmoil.
Jacques is not entirely sympathetic, smug, self-willed, sometimes a lousy friend, but after making his mark in Alain Guiraudie’s STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013), Deladonchamps again potently inhabits an iconic gay character with all the panache, charisma and pathos he could conjure, more strikingly, Jacques has no lingering trace of his character Franch in Guiraudie’s top-grade erotic thriller. Vincent Lacoste, while still wet behind his ears, walks away with a disarming amiability and a titillating swagger that surely lures queer-leaning fans. Then, there is the unassuming Denis Podalydès, whose Matthieu is so fraught with self-knowledge and self-awareness, resorting to an escort for carnal knowledge, but never silly enough to meddle with other person’s amatory imbroglio, even as tempting as sharing his bed with his best friend and the latter’s youthful lover, he has enough willpower to vacate the space.
Punctuated with an eclectic medley of pop songs, and continually drenched in a blueish hue, Honoré’s SORRY ANGEL has a posh allure right out of the box, but after sailing through the emotional journey seasoned with love, loss and hope, there is a beating heart in its center, that can console, warm and give strength to those who need it most.