Lover for a Day (4 stars)

Lover For a Day

French director Philippe Garrel's beguiling latest is a timeless tale of love and longing

Watching a Philippe Garrel film is like stepping back in time to the late 1960s. There really should be a Françoise Hardy song playing in the background, the air needs to be thick with cigarette smoke and the smell of sex, and Jean-Luc Godard shouldn't be too far away planning to cause havoc.

Lover for a Day (L'amant d'un jour) has been shot in pin-sharp black and white, where you can see the peeling paint and dirt-smudged walls of Paris life. Distraught after a break-up with her fiancé, Jeanne (Garrel's daughter Esther) heads home to her father Gilles (Éric Caravaca) and is surprised to discover that he is in the early stages of a relationship with Ariane (Louise Chevillotte).

The two woman are virtually the same age and could pass for sisters. Ariane offers wise words of support but the friendly bond that develops is frequently undercut by moments of jealousy, possessiveness and even a sense of being in competition for Gilles's affections.

Like all of Garrel's films, Lover for a Day is a tale of love and longing in which there is much philosophising about the nature of fidelity – what it really means, whether it is essential to a relationship, or an overrated indulgence. It is a wisp of a film, but made with such elegance and sincerity that it does beguile.

It also sustains your interest in the central trio and the games they play. Acts of betrayal provoke shifting sympathies as characters are revealed in what could be their true colours. It may evoke the cinema of Éric Rohmer and the spirit of the nouvelle vague, yet there is also a timelessness as it confronts the fickle nature of desire and the resilience of the human heart.

Limited release from Fri 19 Jan.

Lover For a Day

  • 4 stars
  • 2016
  • France
  • 1h 16min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Philippe Garrel
  • Cast: Eric Caravaca, Esther Garrel, Louise Chevillotte
  • UK release: 19 February 2018

 Jeanne (Garrel) breaks up with her fiancé and heads home to her father (Caravaca), only to find that he’s in the early stages of a relationship with Ariane (Chevillotte), who’s almost the same age as her. Elegant wisp of a film, with much philosophising about fidelity but also beguilingly sincere.