An Impossible Love Detailed Movie Rating

1958, Châteauroux, France. Office worker Rachel (Efrie) meets translator Philippe (Schneider) and the pair start a passionate affair. But, when Rachel falls pregnant, Philippe refuses marriage and won’t lend his name to his daughter, Chantal. What follows etches Rachel bringing up Chantal over 40 years, with Phillipe’s interruptions taking an increasingly dark turn.
Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love is an old school melodrama without the histrionics and played for real. It’s conventional and mostly devoid of compelling narrative incidents but it casts a charming, entertaining spell as Corsini puts together a handsome looking, well played tale of relationships — both romantic and familial — across forty years while skilfully avoiding dodgy ageing make up.
For the first 40 minutes or so An Impossible Yesmovies Love engagingly etches the relationship between Jewish office worker Rachel and worldly translator Philippe, a patiently built, affair marked by frank sex scenes, walks in the country and Philippe’s off beam views ("A woman remains barely feminine in trousers"). Yet it soon becomes clear that there is a gulf in class status and, when she falls pregnant, he not only rejects marriage ("Of course if you were rich I’d consider it") but won’t give the new born baby his surname.

It’s at this point, Corsini’s film switches from the impossible love between men and women to the impossible love between mother and daughter, examining parent-child relations over the next 30 years with a strong feel for the mini dramas in everyday interactions. It’s a state of affairs complicated by Phillipe’s return to Rachel and Chantal’s life. Her father starts feeding the knowledge hungry Chantal (played as an adolescent by Estelle Lecure) with culture and travel, forcing Rachel to re-evaluate her own contribution to daughter’s current growth.
The film is based on a best selling novel by Christine Angot, a French writer known for her confessional accounts of her own traumatic upbringing, and she channels some of that in a third act shock, tactfully handled by Corsini. Throughout, the director is well served by her two leads. Neils Schneider makes for a charismatic outsider, initially sincere in his ardour for Rachel before bringing believably colder notes when he realizes his girlfriend doesn’t chime with his upbringing.
But the star here is Efira, who makes the journey from lovestruck girlfriend to stoic single mother believable and affecting. A scene she shares with grown up Chantal (played by Beth, front woman of the postpunk group Savages) that puts Rachel’s lifelong relationship to rights is a cracker. It’s a big moment in a small but quietly effective film.
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