Movie Review: Unforgivable (Impardonnables)
The Charlotte Observer
Writer staying in Italy drawn into leasing agent’s complex life, circle of friends in ‘Unforgivable’
There’s a murder, an attempted suicide, an extramarital affair, a disappearance, drug addiction, art forgery and money laundering. The main characters are a Parisian crime writer on holiday in Venice and a bisexual French real estate agent in that city, who shares his home on a whim but won’t disclose much of her past.
Yet just as you expect this bubbling stewpot of illicit activity to reach some kind of boil, you realize that “Unforgivable” isn’t really about criminal behavior – except, perhaps the emotional kind. It’s about the way we become responsible for other people without meaning to or, perhaps, even wanting to.
French director André Téchiné, who’ll be 70 next spring, has spent much of his career with these deliberate dissections of behavior. He wrote this script with Mehdi Ben Attia, adapting Philippe Dijan’s novel, and the movie meanders from relationship to relationship. The forward momentum slows but never stops, and the film continually exerts a gentle pull on us.
Francis (André Dussollier), a best-selling author of about 70, travels to Venice for an extended stay to produce a book. Agent Judith (Carole Bouquet) finds him a house on the island of Sant’Erasmo, then finds herself living in it.
As the movie unfolds over two years, he’s drawn into her extended circle of friends – notably Anna Maria (Adrianna Asti), Judith’s ex-lover and a private detective, and Jérémie (Mauro Conte), Anna Maria’s angry, taciturn son.
Though the movie lasts a reasonably brief 107 minutes, Téchiné is in no hurry to reveal his characters. We’re still learning about them in the last few scenes, and our loyalties and attractions change.
Francis’ unjustified suspicion of Judith’s infidelity seems perverse at first, yet it springs from his own sins – philandering ruined his marriage – and fear of desertion: His daughter has repeatedly flown the coop and gotten involved with shady characters.
For much of the film, Jérémie comes off as sullen, then unsettled, then just creepy. (He can’t bear to be touched by anyone, so he hurls a homosexual who puts a hand on him into a canal.) Yet at the end, as he struggles to start over, he engages our pity.
Before I saw the film, I expected the title to refer to some kind of crime for which a character could never atone. Instead, it applies to all the things we do to each other psychologically, intentionally or otherwise. And Téchiné wants us to understand that nothing is unforgivable, as long we have breath left to keep going and the will to keep reaching out for others.