There are no literal hauntings in director Arnaud Desplechin’s wry, lyrical but often plodding drama, only metaphorical ones. Freewheeling French filmmaker Ismael Vuillard (Mathieu Amalric) is in the process of simultaneously shooting and rewriting a new movie when he and his girlfriend, Sylvia (Charlotte Gainsbourg), are visited by Carlotta (a wide-eyed Marion Cotillard), Ismael’s presumed-dead wife who vanished 21 years ago. Carlotta’s return causes upheaval, but it’s only one factor in Ismael’s perturbation. He’s struggling to finish his movie, a spy thriller based on the adventures of his own brother (Louis Garrel), who refuses to cooperate; he’s plagued by nightmares; and he remains a friend and confidant to Carlotta’s father, an acclaimed director (Laszlo Szabo) who never got over his daughter’s disappearance. One senses that this handsomely shot, well-acted film is personal, and familiarity with Desplechin’s previous work might make it more vivid: Amalric played a musician named Ismael Vuillard in Kings and Queen, and the spy brother has the same last name as a character (played by Amalric) in two other Desplechin films. Without that context, this film about absence feels like it’s missing something.
Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Producer: Pascal Caucheteux, Oury Milshtein and Frantz Richard
Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel, Alba Rohrwacher, Laszlo Szabo, Hippolyte Girardot, Jacques Nolot, Catherine Mouchet and Samir Guesmi