REVIEW: DVD Release: Love Me If You Dare

Film: Love Me If You Dare
Release date: 29th May 2008
Certificate: 15
Running time: 94 mins
Director: Yann Samuell
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibault Verhaeghe, Joséphine Lebas-Joly, Emmanuelle Grönvold
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: DVD
Country: France/Belgium

The directorial debut of French screen writer Yann Samuel that famously bought together two of France’s biggest screen stars of today, Love Me If You Dare could’ve set sail towards the dangerous territory of tabloid fodder. However, with its bold originality and somewhat brutal heart, the film is worlds away from being just another love story.

Boisterous yet imaginative Julien is unable to cope with his mother’s terminal illness, whilst distraught outsider Sophie can’t cope with endless taunts about her heritage. As children on the school bus tease Sophie and throw her books in the street, Julien offers her a small tin box shaped like a carousel.

A prized possession gifted to him by his mother, Julien regrets his moment of kindness, and asks if Sophie will return it soon. Sophie is heartbroken, and demands Julien to prove how much he wants the carousel with a goading dare.

With the absent bus driver picking up Sophie’s tattered books, Julien seizes the moment and takes the break off the bus causing it – along with the school bullies aboard – to roll down the hill. Thus begins the game that will alter their lives.

With only Sophie and Julien playing their game of dares, the world is their oyster. Like a child of divorced parents, the custody of the box alternates between the pair after one dare is completed. What begins as playful and childish – swearing at teachers, urinating in front of the principle – soon metamorphoses in to acts of humiliation and hurt as they mature. As their love for one another increases alongside their escalating dares, the distinction between the game and real life is blurred. Who will dare to quit the game - and will they dare to admit their true feelings…

Love Me If You Dare is the type of romantic comedy that is rare in mainstream cinema because it has dark elements surrounding it.

The main characters are not the typical blonde-haired blue-eyed boy/girl that hail from dynastical families of great wealth, and neither are they churning out fluffy dialogue, with the occasional “I love you” thrown in for good measure. Both Sophie and Julien are unlikable characters that commit horrible acts, yet, as an audience, we invest so much emotionally into their story because we’ve seen just how far they are willing to go for one another.

As children they retreat into a world of fantasy where life is just a game, but when it is time to grow up and face life, it is our narrator Julien that finds this impossible to accept. For Sophie, he is willing to fulfil any dare she desires him to do and vice versa. However, the toughest dare of all is for Sophie and Julien to love one another.

Yann Samuel has crafted such an array of complex characters that even supporting roles - notably Julien’s father, played by Gerard Watkins, whose portrayal of a man losing wife and dealing with single fatherhood is heartbreaking and infuriating to watch – could have propelled the script to being a potential ensemble piece similarly to Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie.

Much has been said about the film’s comparisons with Amelie (there’s even a shared Facebook page for fans of both films). On the surface, it is easy to see why critics are so quick to make this assumption. Both films have strong aesthetic tastes, predominantly towards a colour scheme of green and red, that have inspired American television to adapt a similar strong chrome style (Pushing Daisies and, to a certain extent, Ugly Betty). Even Love Me If You Dare’s narrator as a child adopts a penchant for listing his likes and dislikes a la Amelie, possibly as homage.

Unlike Amelie, Love Me If You Dare showcases the cruelty and complexities of love. What began as all fun and games is now target practise to see who can hurt the other most. The painful fragility masked with a bitter nonchalance experienced by Sophie and Julien is exquisitely illustrated by Marion Cotillard and Guillame Canet. Like a silent film actress, Cotillard uses her eyes to reveal the soul of Sophie in contrast to the arrogant swagger that Canet affects to reveal Julien as a boy pretending to be a man.

Set to a soundtrack consisting of a single song, one would think it would become irritating after a while. However, when the song in question is ‘La Vie En Rose’, the result is nothing short of magical. Using versions by artists such as Donna Summer, Louis Armstrong and French chanteuse Edith Piaf (ironically, Cotillard went on to win an Oscar for portraying the singer), the soundtrack becomes a melting pot of varying cultures and eras united by the theme of love.

In a sense, Julien and Sophie’s game of dares was once La Vie En Rose, translated as life through rose coloured glasses. This is particularly poignant during the film’s alternating endings that let the audience decide the central character’s fates. Whilst this tool is becoming popular throughout modern cinema to satisfy all audience’s tastes, Samuel strongly suggests with the opening shots of the film which ending he would most like viewers to walk away with.

Viewers expecting a ‘boy meets girl and they fall happily in love’ scenario will be disappointed but shouldn’t shy away from viewing Love Me If You Dare. Its quirky take on childhood sweethearts and forbidden love laced with black humour is a refreshing departure from the hoards of formulaic romantic comedies that have graced the box office. SRI

No comments:

Post a Comment