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Christophe Honoré’s Sorry Angel is the story of a 90s-set love affair. It is often poignant and humorous but also placid and complacent, with performances bordering on the self-regarding and even faintly insufferable.
Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) is a handsome, successful writer in his early 40s, HIV-positive and living in Paris. He is dealing with career-disenchantment and writers’ block – and also a stagnant and unsatisfactory love life. His discontent is not immediately soothed by being invited to a literary festival in Rennes, where he is thoroughly annoyed at the shabby hotel where they’ve put him up – something appropriate for a B-lister – and in a fractious and grumpy mood he does not show up at the venue straightaway but goes instead to a movie show, Jane Campion’s The Piano. There he spots the cute young student Arthur (Vincent Lacoste) in the row opposite, who is bi, and living with fellow student Nadine (Adele Wismes).
On a glorious, dangerous whim, they whisper flirtatiously to each other, now quite uninterested in the film. (Arthur will later describe it as “a bit storybook”.) Something has clearly happened – there is a spark between the older cosmopolitan intellectual and the younger, pertly bookish Breton. Clearly things must be reassessed in both their lives. Arthur has to settle things with Nadine, a problem he approaches in a mood of shrugging casualness.
Back in Paris, Jacques himself has many things to work out, things more difficult for an older guy with more life experiences and ties of loyalty. Any serious new partner will have to get on with his intelligent young son, whom he has had with a female friend and who stays over regularly. A former lover of Jacques’s, with whom things have ended badly, is now dying of an Aids-related disease and begs Jacques to take him in so that he can die with him. Jacques has an on-off thing with a former pickup, whose frank sensuality is still something that he prizes on some level. And Jacques has a complex, protective relationship with his friend, confidant and neighbour Mathieu – a really good performance from Denis Podalydès – who may himself have feelings for Jacques. And Jacques’s own condition is not necessarily stable.
There is a strange moment when Arthur proposes coming to Paris to visit Jacques – it is the subject of a waspish exchange between Jacques and Mathieu, prompted by the news that Arthur will be attending an ACT UP meeting. “For a visitor, going to ACT UP is like visiting the catacombs.”
Well, possibly. But the flip cynicism is not easy to read here. And the reccurrent note of torpid drollery and melancholy in this film strikes me as exactly the sort of self-involved fatalism that the passionate ACT UP campaigners in Robin Campillo’s superb film 120 BPM wanted to blow out of the water. And for all the sadness and ostensible romance, there is something disconcertingly passionless and anaemic in this movie.
Though without music, Sorry Angel is not entirely unlike Honoré’s somewhat fey musical entertainments Beloved (2011) and Love Songs (2007) – and Arthur is a kind of smug and self-satisfied role in which Honoré might until recently have cast the puckishly narcissistic Louis Garrel. There are some attractive aspects to Sorry Angel: Paris always looks terrific in it and Denis Podalydès is a warm and sympathetic presence, particularly when he participates in a silly, fun dance with Arthur and Jacques in his apartment. The beachside scenes with Nadine reminded me of something by Eric Rohmer. But there is something slight and unrewarding in this.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sorry Angel – apology not accepted for tedious age-gap gay romance | Film