Romance without the chemistry

The dialogue between the leads played by Elsa Zylberstein and Jean Dujardin does not spark much interest.
The dialogue between the leads played by Elsa Zylberstein and Jean Dujardin does not spark much interest.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / ROMANCE DRAMA

UN + UNE (R21)

113 minutes/Opens tomorrow

2.5/5 stars

The story: Famed film composer Antoine (Jean Dujardin) is hired to score an upcoming short film in India. Upon reaching Mumbai, he meets the French ambassador's wife Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), whom he feels irresistibly drawn to. Together, they go on a journey across India.

If all the leads ever do in this film is walk and talk about mundane things, then they better be extremely charismatic to watch.

But as much as French stars Dujardin and Zylberstein are pleasant to look at, the two do not share the same kind of sizzling chemistry found in Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise trilogy (1995, 2004 and 2013), in which Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy captivated audiences by just, well, walking and talking.

There are lengthy scenes here of Antoine and Anna prattling on about everything from reincarnation to parenthood and while their conversations sound natural and likely are half-improvised, what they are saying is never particularly interesting.

Often, their actions are also completely baffling.

One night, Anna openly seduces Antoine, but the next day, she acts as if nothing happened.

It is only when the pair interacts with other people that the film sparks any real interest.

The scene in which Anna and Antoine meet India's real-life "hugging saint" Amma, for example, is a highlight.

The holy woman had agreed to be filmed documentary-style for the movie, but was not told which of the endless line of hug seekers of the day were film stars.

Her warm demeanour with every single one of the thousands of devotees is fascinating to watch and it is here that Anna and Antoine, who both appear genuinely moved by the whole event, finally feel more like real human beings than just characters thrown together in a movie.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Romance without the chemistry'. Print Edition | Subscribe