Earlier this week, I came across “French Film,” a Sundance offering that was available among my free picks on cable. Naturally, the title alone was enough for me to give it a whirl.
It’s a comedy about relationships, contrasting the French approach to amour and romance with a more stiff upper lip Britannic style. The story revolves around two couples, and the musings of a know-it-all French film director as narrator.
He, incidentally, is the one who leads us all astray – proclaiming that the way a relationship begins is vital to how it will unfold.
“Beginnings are everything,” says one of the characters, reinforced by the director’s counsel to the audience:
“The beginning is played out again and again and again, so make it good.”
It’s a whimsical premise for a movie, isn’t it?
Love, In Love, and Comfortable Caring
Our slightly bumbling hero, endearingly depicted by Hugh Bonneville, cannot comprehend why his girlfriend of 10 years won’t marry him. But the audience quickly sees the differences between love and in love, not to mention, comfortable caring.
As they seek couples therapy to get to the bottom of it, their best friends – a quirky guy with a loving girlfriend – undergo a few problems of their own.
We’re also treated to a fictitious Frenchman in flashbacks to a film within a film, who finds that he sleeps with a woman he takes to be a hooker, and in the morning, he discovers she’s actually a dentist.
They genuinely like each other, and as she leaves she says: “This story could be the best opening a couple ever had. Or nothing at all.”
Personally, I’ve never given much thought to romantic beginnings, though I’m a believer in providing the best possible beginnings to children, the best possible beginnings in a new job, the best start I can make in a new town or a new neighborhood.
I do believe in beginnings – in life – though I’ve never used them to forecast endings, per se.
Why would I?
Of course we can’t control for the unknown in any of these situations. So we take what reality presents, we apply a reasonable amount of our best, and move forward – sometimes making lemonade out of lemons, and other times, wasting whatever investment we put into the relationship or enterprise – and if nothing, we learn some lessons.
How Love and Passion Play Out
Do you believe in beginnings that set the stage for everything that follows?
I’m ambivalent, myself, recalling the major “loves” in my life, and contemplating the spark in each scenario. I’m also considering the endings – those that exploded, that sputtered, or simply faded.
I’m also considering the relationship I’ve been enjoying recently, and I adore our beginning. It was charming, low key, surprisingly romantic, and utterly unexpected. But does our “beginning” predict anything? Don’t we need to constantly assess where we are, what needs tweaking, and how committed both parties are to the couple and the same sort of lifestyle?
I’ve lived encounters that got off to modest starts, as well a few that were fiery. Yet the love affair in each instance was divine, and the endings, often blossoming into friendship afterward. (That’s an excellent dénouement, if you ask me.)
Long term relationships?
Depending on the circumstances – age, stage, jobs, kids, living situation and everyday stresses – they’re bound to be subject to wear-and-tear.
It began with a romantic meeting and a lovely courtship, which didn’t make a bit of difference in the end, or more importantly – in the middle, which seemed to commence all too quickly – and which was certainly the beginning of the end.
If there is a message to the film, “French Film,” I take it as this: However we may spin our nice beginning, choosing the right person (at the right time) is essential. And that’s about values, character, chemistry, and a soupçon of something – not the least of which is luck.
Image of actor Hugh Bonneville, courtesy Wiki, public domain.
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