Wednesday, 24 June 2015


An intelligent filmmaker with the right intentions, with genuine human affinity that searches far further than the same old character tropes that define so many romance movies - such a figure is oft to be found in France, and such a filmmaker is oft to be trusted to make a movie much better than so many romance movies. If you'd trust Thomas Cailley, who is such a filmmaker indeed, to do just that, you'd be wise, though Les Combattants somewhat tests the notion that the right combination of intelligence, good intentions and genuine human affinity will suffice to elevate an otherwise conventional romance. Not that Les Combattants is even particularly a romance - its young love is more a byproduct of the gentle, authentic-feeling character development that Cailley makes his concern - it's a largely unclassifiable movie, situated somewhere between genres, serving a variety of purposes. Yet its tone is consistent, the only outlier being an intrusive electronic score that seems only to provide a jolt of contemporary energy that ironically deprives the film of its unique spirit. It's symptomatic of an artistic ambition that Cailley doesn't display elsewhere in such blatant terms, and while one may be grateful of this detail, the laidback plainness of Les Combattants rather years for a few more jolts of stylistic verve, albeit some that coexist with the film's other elements more comfortably. While Cailley is none too eager to pass judgement on his characters, he and his co-writer Claude le Pape, and his unpretentious cast, develop their roles with sensitivity and a fulfilling commitment to gentle idiosyncrasy and subtle complexity, even contradiction. It's here that Cailley's intelligence shows through, in that genuine human affinity. Find an affinity with ambition, and he might make a movie much better than even this one.