Toutes nos envies (All Our Desires)

Toutes nos envies (All Our Desires)
Toutes nos envies (All Our Desires) screens as the clos­ing film of Cinéfranco 2012 on Sunday April 1st at 6:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Toutes nos envies (All Our Desires) (Director: Philippe Lioret): I’m con­fid­ent in declar­ing that Philippe Lioret is France’s answer to Ken Loach. Reteaming with Vincent Lindon from his last film Welcome (review), Lioret crafts an intel­li­gent tear­jerker with a con­science.

The del­ic­ately beau­ti­ful Marie Gillain plays Claire, a young magis­trate in the city of Lyon. Day after day she’s con­fron­ted with cases of people burdened by unsus­tain­able levels of con­sumer debt, now being sued by the pred­at­ory loan com­pan­ies who have taken advant­age of their des­per­a­tion. Coming from a sim­ilar upbring­ing, it’s no sur­prise that she wants to help these people rather than see them humi­li­ated any fur­ther. Things reach a break­ing point when the mother of her daughter’s school friend appears before her in court. After dis­miss­ing the woman’s case, she is placed on sus­pen­sion due to her undis­closed rela­tion­ship with the woman (she’d lent her the princely sum of 12 Euros so that their daugh­ters could attend a school excur­sion together) and the case is thrown back into the court sys­tem. Desperate to help Celine, with whom she’s begun to form a friend­ship, she turns to Stéphane (Lindon), an older judge who has been known to fight the sys­tem for cases just like this one. He’s pess­im­istic and at first turns down the case, but he relents, just as Claire is dia­gnosed with an aggress­ive and ter­minal brain tumour. She decides to refuse treat­ment and keep her con­di­tion secret, even from her hus­band, while she tries to help Stéphane with the case.

As described, it sounds incred­ibly melo­dra­matic, but Lioret is able to keep things at a low sim­mer, mostly due to the strong per­form­ances of Gillain and Lindon. It’s won­der­ful to watch Stéphane’s rela­tion­ship with his younger col­league pro­ceed effort­lessly from the pro­fes­sional to the per­sonal. In the end, he becomes a father fig­ure to her. And Gillain’s scenes where she watches her hus­band inter­act with Celine are heart­break­ing. She tries to nudge them together so that her own impend­ing absence won’t be so trau­matic on her hus­band and chil­dren, even giv­ing Celine her own dresses and per­fume.

If the film has any major flaws, it’s that the sup­port­ing char­ac­ters aren’t nearly as fleshed out as they need to be. Claire’s hus­band Christophe is far too pass­ive, as is Celine, the woman who at the begin­ning of the film is too proud to accept 12 Euros from Claire but who later moves into her house and seems will­ing to accept any­thing the couple can provide. Claire’s mother, with her own credit prob­lems, seems to hover on the peri­phery of the story as well, even after she dis­cov­ers that her daugh­ter has ter­minal can­cer.

There aren’t really any big sur­prises in the story, but it’s finely acted and injects poten­tially dry mater­ial with genu­ine human­ism. The title Toutes nos envies slyly refers to those advert­ise­ments for cheap credit that prom­ise us a life­style where we can have everything we want. Each one of our char­ac­ters comes to real­ize the lie behind that prom­ise, and yet the film ends hope­fully.

Apologies in advance for the lack of sub­titles on the trailer. I hope the syn­op­sis will help you to fig­ure out what’s going on.

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