CIFF 2010: LOVE LIKE POISON

LOVE LIKE POISON (France)
Monday, 6:20pm and Sunday (10/17), 1:15pm
A fourteen-year-old girl returns from Catholic boarding school to spend the summer in her small-town home, where she must confront her parents’ separation, her grandfather’s slow death, and the attentions of a cute boy in the neighborhood. This is familiar material, to be sure, but writer-director Katell Quillévéré displays such feeling for her characters and setting that the film doesn’t feel like a series of clichés. She’s also surprisingly frank in depicting sexual subject matter without letting it overwhelm the story at hand: This isn’t THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, but it isn’t Catherine Breillat territory, either. Quillévéré is after a holistic portrait of adolescence, and her tone–probing, attentive to small things, and honest in its emotional content–reflects the manner in which many teenagers aspire to see themselves. Also commendable is the film’s treatment of Catholicism, which is serious without turning reverent or critical: Anna may come to doubt her religious teaching, but Quillévéré wants us to know that doubt is perfectly natural, too. In recent movies as diverse as Krzysztof Zanussi’s A WARM HEART and Daniel S├ínchez Arévalo’s GORDOS, European cinema has provided images of religious and secular values operating in mature co-existence; and LOVE LIKE POISON provides several more. (The character of a self-effacing, soccer-playing priest is especially charming.) This is more of a cultural achievement than a cinematic one, but it’s edifying all the same. (2010, 82 min, 35mm)

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