Another sly, sexy psychological thriller, starring Marine Vacth and Jérémie Renier.
Based on Joyce Carol Oates' short novel Lives of The Twins, François Ozon concocts yet another sly, sexy psychological thriller -- originally titled L'amant double -- starring Marine Vacth and Jérémie Renier.
Vacth plays Chloe, a young woman suffering from intense stomach pain. Unable to find the cause of her symptoms, her doctor suggests seeing a therapist. So she becomes a patient of Paul Meyer (Renier), a mild mannered, handsome psychologist. At first, Chloe is skeptical to open herself up to a stranger, but the mutual attraction is palpable. With the help of compassionate Paul, she pours out her soul, appointment after appointment. And soon enough they fall in love. After Paul declares his love for her, they move in together.
While unpacking Paul's belongings, Chloe finds his old passport with a different surname, Delord. He has a simple explanation - he took in his mother's maiden name when he went into practice, since Paul Meyer sounds better. She drops the subject, but a seed of distrust is planted: 'He knows everything about me. But I know nothing of him.' The stomach pain returns soon after.
On the way home from her museum watchmen job (she was a former model who lost interests after seeing the sleazy side of the industry), Chloe sees Paul or someone who looks exactly like him on the street talking to another woman. Paul denies that it was him, saying it must have been her job related stress. He recommends seeing another therapist for her stomach pain. She finds out that the man who looks just like Paul is his estranged twin brother Louis (also played by Renier), who's also a practicing therapist. Under the false pretense, she starts seeing Louis.
Louis turns out to be the opposite of Paul. He is cold, brutish and calculating. And naturally, Chloe can't help but being sexually attracted to him. Chloe starts wondering why Paul has been hiding the fact that he has a twin brother. And why Louis doesn't want her to tell Paul about their encounters. After experiencing aggressive sexual advances from Louis, Chloe gives in to her desires, and they become lovers.
Like many of his films, Double Lover is an absorbing ride. Carefully crafted with its twists and turns, the narrative pulls you in right from the beginning and never let you go. Visually, Hitchcockian elements are everywhere from the spiral staircases to the wall of mirrors.
Vacth, working with Ozon for the second time after Young and Beautiful, shows her great emotional range as a woman who struggles with doubts, jealousy and desire. There is a darker dimension to her than Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby or Chatherine Deneuve in Repulsion. She is definitely not some damsel in distress. Renier is a Belgian actor who's been a Dardenne Bros regular. It's interesting to see the scrawny working class kid from La Promisse, ascending to one of the hottest romantic male leads in French cinema. He shines in a dual role, basically playing the good and the darker side of the same person.
There have been many great psychological, erotic thrillers involving twins both real and imagined - Dead Ringers, Sisters, The Dark Half come to mind when considering Double Lover. But it being an Ozon film, it's all about its protagonist creating a great, compelling narrative. Like Ozon himself, they are master storytellers, who is taking us for a ride. It's a highly seductive film with great many effortlessly sensual sequences.
I find it funny that the film is being released on Valentines Day against yet another Fifty Shades movie from its franchise. Let me put it simply - French does it better, effortlessly. Steamy and seductive, Double Lover is an infinitely better choice for a date movie.
Double Lover opens on Valentines Day, February 14, nationwide in the US.
Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions on everything cinema and beyond can be found at www.dustinchang.com