What makes Un amour impossible a fairly good film is that we have never seen a character like Philippe Arnold, so perfectly and clearly defined by Franco-Canadian actor Niels Schneider. But the film’s main character is Rachel Steiner (Virginie Efira, Schneider’s partner in real life). Rachel and Philippe meet in 1958. They have sex and a daughter, Chantal, is born. That’s when Philippe becomes illusive. It seems to us that Rachel has no clue what is happening. But we’re ahead of her. Philippe Arnold is a young man from a wealthy family, would not let it be known that he had a daughter with a simple office worker. It’s all about of class. But that is OK with Rachel, who loves Philippe and is ready to love him whenever he shows up, which is not very often actually. As for their daughter, Philippe simply stays away for a few years. He really starts to try having a relationship with Chantal (Estelle Lescur) when she is a teenager. But he stays cold and distant. He is resisting to the proposition that she officially take is family name. Then he gets closer to Chantal, to the point that the young lady gets along better with her dad than her mom. A weird reversal. That’s when Rachel discovers the truth about Philippe and Chantal. Un amour impossible is very good at understanding, and making us understand, where everyone positions themselves. Like many woman of her time, Rachel let men walk all over them. Men of Philippe’s standing knew they could get away with it. And so they did. Philippe’s impositions are not violent, but he’s just a very imposing man who knows how to control people. Virginie Efira, who was playing comedy in Le grand bain a few month ago, carries the film with her raw emotions. Rachel’s frustrating paralysis is terrible to watch, but so real. Niels Schneider is so dark here that he certainly won’t win any popularity contest. But he does well for the film. At the end teenage and adult Chantal (Jehnny Beth) becomes estranged from her mom. The love that is impossible is also between Rachel and Chantal. It’s daughter against mother, woman against woman. Typically French! And it justifies this turn around by over intellectual over analysis. For sure it is a highly dysfunctional situation, but it got worse, in my opinion, when he got back into the picture. So half of a good film. Close, but no cigar!
Un amour impossible (An impossible love)
Based on the novel by Christine Angot
In French with English subtitles.