03 March 2010

Review: "Jeux des Enfants" (Love Me If You Dare)

I have been watching quite a few foreign films lately, the most recent of which is Jeux des Enfants, a French film starring Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard. It is a story of childhood love that struggles to mature into adulthood. It is a film from 2003 that is directed by Yann Samuell, whose only other film is the English-language film My Sassy Girl (2003). It is interesting that Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard are now in a relationship, though their relationship began in 2007. The film features a soundtrack heavily influenced by Edith Piaf, and Marion Cotillard won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2008 for playing Edith Piaf in the film La Vie en Rose. Guillaume Canet has recently gone behind the camera, and he directed one of my favourite films from 2008, Ne le dis à personne (Tell No One), though it was originally released in France in 2006. While Jeux des Enfants could have been a traditional romantic comedy, the imagery in the film and the lead performances help make it a beautiful film that still resonates with me days after viewing it.

Julien Janiver (Canet) first meets Sophie Kowalsky (Cotillard) as a young boy. She is constantly teased for being a Polish immigrant. One day Julien approaches her and presents her with a beautifully decorated tin that was given to him by his mother. The two use the tin to engage in a game of dares: whoever has the tin forces the other to regain possession by performing any task. The tin is special to Julien because it belonged to his mother, who passes away shortly after Sophie enters his life. He has never had a good relationship with his father and is led to believe that he is responsible for his mother's death. Although he may not understand his son, Julien's father asks permission for Sophie to stay overnight with Julien. This continues well into college, though Sophie begins to realize that she is in love with Julien. The two seem destined for Romeo and Juliet tragedy, and Jeux des Enfants leads to an incredibly satisfying climax.

I was originally put off by the film's English title, Love Me If You Dare, though after viewing the film I understand its significance. The film uses beautiful imagery and symbolism to help viewers empathize with its heroes. I have never been a real fan of Marion Cotillard until I saw this film. Her acting was beautiful and effortless, and I found myself drawn to her character time and time again. Roger Ebert, my favourite critic, reviewed the film and said "By the end I didn't like them. Did I loathe them as people, or as characters? [...] What I do know is the movie is strangely frustrating, because Julien and Sophie choose misery and obsession as a lifestyle, and push far beyond reality." I have disagreed with him in the past, though I feel that this time that he was too harsh. I was invested in their relationship and I believe that their misery and obsession are directly related to their denial of not being together.

My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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