Love Like Poison (R15)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/05/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 92 minutes

Impressively directed and beautifully shot, this is an engaging and provocative coming-of-age story thanks to a superbly written script and a terrific central performance from newcomer Clara Augarde.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by Katell Quillevere, Love Like Poison is set in the Breton countryside and stars Clara Augarde as Anna, a 14-year-old girl who has returned from boarding school to stay with her ailing grandfather (Michel Galabru) for the summer, along with her mother, Jeannette (Lio), who is divorcing her father (Thierry Neuvic).

As well as dealing with her grandfather's ill health and her parents' divorce, Anna is undergoing a crisis of faith with regard to her upcoming confirmation, brought on partly by an awareness of her own burgeoning sexuality and her feelings for local boy Pierre (Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil).

Meanwhile, tensions in the house reach boiling point when Anna's father comes to visit and Jeannette finds herself drawn towards local priest Francois (Stefano Cassetti), who may or may not have feelings for her.

The Good
The French have really made the young-girl-coming-of-age drama their own in recent years and Love Like Poison (the original title, Un Poison Violent, derives from a Serge Gainsbourg song) is a worthy addition to the genre. Newcomer Clara Augarde is superb as Anna, delivering a performance that is both remarkably assured in terms of physicality (there is nudity) and heart-breakingly vulnerable and innocent at the same time.

There's also terrific support from both Galabru and Leboulanger-Gourvil as the two most important male figures in Anna's life: her relationships with both characters form the emotional heart of the film, just as she finds herself growing apart from both her father and the church, personified by Cassetti's character.

The Great
The intelligent script takes an intriguing approach to the story, refusing to spell out everything that's going on and allowing us to fill in the gaps for ourselves, through glances, body language and what feels like a series of vignettes rather than a straightforward, dialogue-heavy narrative. That said, the few emotional outbursts are extremely powerful, such as when Jeannette admits that she's jealous of Anna because her father will always love her.

On top of that, the film is beautifully shot and the editing is frequently striking. There's also a superb choral soundtrack and Quillevere orchestrates several memorable scenes, such as Pierre serenading Anna on the guitar. Plus a great final scene too.

Worth seeing?
Love Like Poison is a beautifully directed, superbly written and brilliantly acted coming-of-age drama that marks co-writer/director Quillevere out as a talent to watch. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 18/10/2019 22:53

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