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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Nick James

Both Sides of the Blade review – Claire Denis’s love triangle thriller lacks chemistry

Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon in Both Sides of the Blade.
‘Impassioned suffering’: Juliette Binoche and Vincent Lindon in Both Sides of the Blade. Photograph: PR

Vincent Lindon’s baggy blue eyes and Juliette Binoche’s tight, hopeful smile confront each other in an airy flat overlooking the rooftops of Paris. Sara (Binoche), a radio show host, and Jean (Lindon), an unconfident ex-con ex-rugby player, maintain a fragile domestic midlife equilibrium as a doting couple. But one sight of her former lover François (Grégoire Colin) sends Sara into an anguish of fond remembrance, and soon François is calling Jean, offering him a job in his old game as a rugby talent scout.

What François is up to in re-establishing both contacts stays mostly offscreen, but its corrosive effect is played out in confrontations between the two leads. Burdening the familiar tortuous French love triangle, however, is too much complex backstory explained through dialogue and drawn, I assume, from the source novel, Un tournant de la vie by Christine Angot, director Claire Denis’s scriptwriting partner here.

Denis’s usual panache with mood and imagery doesn’t mitigate that awkwardness, nor does it alter the feeling that, although both leads individually portray impassioned suffering brilliantly, there’s little chemistry between them.

Watch a trailer for Both Sides of the Blade.
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