This exquisite and heartbreaking film by Christophe Honoré felt like a more whimsical but no less real partner to last year’s BPM. The Anglicised title doesn’t do it justice, and I prefer the original that loosely translates as “pleasure, love and run fast.”
Set in Northern France in the early 1990s, the story circles around two key characters; Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps), a writer in his late 30s who is HIV-positive and Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a young student who has relationships with both women and men.
In a beautifully orchestrated scene, they meet at a screening of The Piano and their whispered dialogue shows them connect intellectually and emotionally, set against the backdrop of crashing waves and Michael Nyman’s (now) instantly recognisable score. This is one of several moments that uses music to deposit us back into a time when being HIV positive was a death sentence and friends and family were fading before our eyes. The rich harmonious cacophony of the Cocteau Twins and the sparse and plaintive tones of the Cowboy Junkies have an emotional pull that’s hard to resist.
The story feels like a series of overlapping arcs as we follow Jacques and then Arthur, seeing their separate lives, the people who come and go and the people who stay. For Jacques, his rock is Mathieu (Denis Podalydès), neighbour and inveterate cynic. When friend Marco (Thomas Gonzalez) calls, asking for a place to stay in his final days, Mathieu warns Jacques against responding but beneath his irascible exterior, Jacques has a big heart and an all too real understanding of what Marco needs.
There is a lot of humour in this film, in fact it often seems to bubble with joy, particularly when Jacques and Arthur are together. Arthur’s delight in finding Jacques is palpable and it feels like Arthur represents the hopeful future, where being HIV positive is survivable. There are also moments of intense sadness but even within these there is beauty. The scene with Marco in the bath stays with me and reminds me of BPM in its depiction of the depth of love and care given friend to friend during this terrible time.
Like Cold War, the ending is a difficult one but handled in a way that gives it a rightness and poetic beauty.
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.