Laetitia Colombani’s “He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not” is a cinematic stunt, but like “Memento” it’s a stunt that works in spite of the obvious contrivance. The picture begins as though it were “Amelie” (which also starred Audrey Tautou), but near the halfway point it turns into something akin to “With a Friend Like Harry”–a freewheeling romantic trifle suddenly transformed into an unnerving psychological thriller. But it’s not merely the tone that changes–it’s the perspective from which the events are portrayed. The film literally rewinds so that we witness what we’ve already seen in an entirely new light–after which the two sides of the narrative are tied up in a satisfyingly perverse resolution. The result is rather like “Run Lola Run” played at much slower speed and with a distinctly Gallic sensibility, though without the philosophical underpinnings of Tom Tykwer’s picture.
The English title of the film is an almost perfect encapsulation of its content. The first forty minutes, the “He Loves Me” part, is an initially breezy but increasingly dark story focusing on effervescent art student and waitress Angelique (Tautou–the character’s name turns out to be deeply ironic), who’s head over heels for older cardiologist (and neighbor) Loic (Samuel Le Bihan), despite the fact that he’s got a pregnant wife, Rachel (Isabelle Carre), and her best friend Heloise (Sophie Guillemin) and infatuated fellow student David (Clement Sibony) are advising her that the romance is a mistake. Ultimately Angelique grows despondent over Loic’s lack of attention–even after Rachel has not only become suspicious of her husband’s behavior but has miscarried as the result of an accident–and she is at point of suicide. It’s here that the picture suddenly switches course to “He Loves Me Not” and restages all the action we’ve just seen, this time from Loic’s point of view. Now he’s a harried physician who takes his family responsibilities seriously and whose practice is stressful; to make matters worse he’s being tormented by an unknown female stalker, who he suspects might be one of his hypochondriacal patients. Before long his wife is injured and his marriage is in serious jeopardy; he’s even accused of assault and is suddenly in danger of seeing his career ruined. But his efforts to save the life of a neighbor girl who’s tried to kill herself ultimately leads to the revelation of who’s been behind his troubles.
“He Loves Me…He Loves Me Not” isn’t especially suspenseful, but its cleverness suffices to maintain interest over the relatively brief running-time. It’s helped considerably by the leads. Tautou once again puts her gamin-like appearance to good use, flashing her wide smile and big eyes for effect toward the start but turning convincingly obsessive and menacing later on, and Le Bihan matches her well, changing persuasively from a suave Lothario in the first half to a put- upon sufferer in the second. The supporting players are less notable, but Sibony gets in some nice smoldering looks as the young man who pines for Angelique from afar. The film also makes good use of its locations, and while the cinematography is mostly workmanlike, a few shots are striking (one from above as Angelique throws a suitcase from a bridge is especially so). The employment of the old standard “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” as Angelique’s theme is an amusing touch.
Colombani’s picture may work better as a cinematic puzzle than as a pure thriller, but it still makes for an enjoyable ride.