February 26, 2006
The whimsical and offbeat opening sequence of subverted expectation and role reversal provides a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into the eccentric humor and understatedly irony of screenwriter turned filmmaker Sophie Fillières latest film, Gentille, as an anxious Fontaine Leglou (Emmanuelle Devos), an anesthesiologist working the evening shift at a private psychiatric hospital, accosts an unwitting man on the street with a vehement rejection of any potential attempt at romantic pursuit in the mistaken belief that he had deliberately followed her from the train in order to chat her up. Chagrined by her impulsive act of presumptive aggression, Fontaine then invites the stranger for a drink to atone for her unprovoked brusqueness. Fontaine's reaction to the awkward, if amusingly disarming, encounter provides an insightful glimpse into her character that will inevitably set the tone for a delightful comedy of manners when her behavioral pattern of exceeding politeness, discretion, and opacity collides with her emotional ambivalence over a patient and fellow colleague, Philippe's (Lambert Wilson) not-too-subtle romantic overtures and a marriage proposal from her long-time, live-in lover Michel (Bruno Todeschini) towards an attenuated (and occasionally surreal) self-induced crisis of evasive indecision. Inviting favorable comparison to Noémie Lvovsky's deceptively lyrical, breezy, and idiosyncratic, yet sophisticated, incisive, and poignant comedies on the travails of romantic relationships (in films such as Les Sentiments), Gentille similarly captures the eccentricities of human behavior and the imaginative humor and sensual mystery that can be found in the quotidian. Chronicling Fontaine's humorous attempts at maintaining a semblance of normalcy despite surfacing - and increasingly distracting - romantic entanglements, Fillières insightfully navigates through the ever-complicated terrain of evolving relationships and the enigma of the human heart.