A Faithful Man (4 stars)

A Faithful Man

Impish French New Wave-inspired romantic comedy from actor-turned-director Louis Garrel

The spirit of the French New Wave is alive and well in A Faithful Man (L'Homme Fidèle), a slight, witty romantic confection that could have been made by François Truffaut or Éric Rohmer. The second feature from actor-turned-director Louis Garrel – following 2015's Two Friends – combines impish charm and wistful melancholy as it charts a convoluted love story in which the pursuit of happiness is fraught with heartbreak.

Garrel, who co-wrote the film with Oscar-winning screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière (Belle de Jour), stars as Abel, a journalist three years into a relationship with Marianne (Laetitia Casta, Garrel's wife). Then comes the bombshell of Marianne's announcement that she is pregnant, and not by him. The father is his good friend Paul and she now thinks it might be best to marry him.

Abel's world is turned upside down but the years pass. Life moves on, although he never completely surrenders what Marianne had meant to him. When they meet again eight years later, the film becomes a rumination on second chances, roads untravelled and the perils of looking for love in all the wrong places.

Despite an unusually brief running time of just 75-minutes, A Faithful Man is densely packed with character and incident, revelations and twists that all serve to reflect the romantic dilemmas faced by Abel. Paul's younger sister Ève (Lily-Rose Depp) harbours a crush on Abel and Marianne has paid a price for the choices that she has made along the way.

There is an easy, lighter-than-air confidence to A Faithful Man that is immensely appealing. Garrel is a past master at portraying intense, matinee idol lovers but he also proves to be an accomplished storyteller, investing this old-fashioned affair with acidic wit and bringing out the best in a cast that includes a scene-stealing Joseph Engel as Marianne's son. Lovers of vintage French cinema will find it hard to resist.

Selected release from Fri 23 Aug.

A Faithful Man

  • 4 stars
  • 2018
  • France
  • 15
  • Directed by: Louis Garrel
  • Cast: Louis Garrel, Laetitia Casta, Lily-Rose Depp
  • UK release: 23 August 2019

Abel (Garrel) is a journalist three years into a relationship with Marianne (Casta), who informs him that she’s pregnant, and not by him. Despite the brief running time, it’s packed with incident and there’s an appealing, lighter-than-air confidence about it. Charming and melancholy.