Love Like Poison

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am


Love Like Poison
Clara Augarde, Lio, Michel Galabru, Stefano Cassetti
Director: Katell Quillevere

A highly acclaimed film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, Love Like Poison is the sum of two stunning debuts: that of 31-year-old director Katell Quillevere and her teenage lead actress, Clara Augarde.

Having already reaped plaudits for her first short film With All My Might - a nuanced tale about the relationship between two playful brothers which also premiered at Cannes in 2005 - Quillevere has again shown her knack in revealing the anxiety and anguish which often plague young hearts.

This time it's with a story about the silent implosion of a rural French family, with all the twists converging on the apparently ordinary life of 14-year-old Anna (Augarde) who's awaiting the Catholic ritual of confirmation while undergoing the troubling experience of pubescent pangs.

Quillevere's talent lies in her ability to draw meticulous portraits of her characters while steering clear of melodramatic histrionics - and the story does contain quite a few opportunities for that.

Anna arrives home in her country town to discover that her father has left them for another woman, and her mother (Lio) is now wallowing in insecurity that even leads her to become jealous of her own daughter's youthful and vibrant beauty.

As Anna struggles with her own devotion to her religious faith - Jesus seems to be her all-empowering love, despite the affections of a lovesick boy - she consults with her parish priest (Stefano Cassetti), who himself has to undergo a test of faith when he discovers that he has become the object of desire of Anna's mother.

But Augarde's the star here, as she delivers a moving performance without resorting to anything showy or obvious. As Anna's life grows ever more alienating and absurd - heightened by an increasingly intimate relationship with her kindly grandfather (Michel Galabru), which takes a more disturbing turn as the story moves on - Augarde opts to play out that confusion in an appropriately understated manner.

It's a staggeringly confident turn which gives meaning to the film's French title, Un Poison Violent - 'A Violent Poison' - with the violence seeping into life, although very slowly.

Extras: interviews with the director and actors; the short film With All My Might; trailer.