Highly Strung (3 stars)

Highly Strung

(15) 96min

Passed over for a UK theatrical release, this debut feature from French writer-director Sophie Laloy is an intimate melodrama, which explores the complex and intense relationship that develops between two young women. Aspiring concert pianist Marie has moved from the countryside to Lyon to study at the city’s prestigious music conservatory. She admires her elegant blonde flat mate Emma (Isild le Besco), but the latter turns out to have a powerfully possessive personality.

Doubtless this will be pigeon-holed as a Gallic Single White Female, yet Laloy wisely concentrates on the ambiguity of Marie’s feelings and responses towards Emma’s advances and how her professional development is affected by internal turmoil: creative success, it seems, requires emotional ruthlessness. The darkened and claustrophobically framed apartment is an atmospheric central location, there are fine performances from the two leads, and the classical soundtrack (including excerpts from Ravel, Chopin, Bach Schumann) is integral to the film’s impact. Extras include ‘making of’ documentary.

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