Sebastien Lifshitz is a legendary filmmaker in France and hopefully “Come Undone” (Picture This! Entertainment) will bring his fame to America. Here we have a summer fling between two teenaged boys which becomes a full-fledged love affair in a sexy romantic film. It has several things going for it—erotic sex scenes and a look at teenage neuroses. Unfortunately it buckles under the weight of poor structure and heavy dramatics. Lifshitz obviously wanted to do more than give us a standard of coming-of-age story but he left a little too much unexplained and the result is a film that is excellent to watch although frustratingly uneven.
Jeremie Elkaim is Mathieu who is on the French seaside with his sister, his ill mother and their caretaker. During his first day on the beach he sees another teenager who is strikingly handsome. The again, late one night he sees the same guy walking outside of his house and goes out to talk to him. Garcon (Stephane Rideau) and Mathieu almost fall in love instantly but Mathieu is afraid and bolts. But they somehow work things out and as they become inseparable, eyebrows are raised yet no one is really taken aback. What bothered me was the fast forward of the film to Mathieu two years later in the hospital looking very ill. It seemed to take forever to find out what had happened to put him there and when it was finally explained, I was dissatisfied with the explanation.
What is strong about the direction is how it shows the cruelties of teenagers but he skips over some of the most important issues such as the rejection of Garcon by Mathieu at first and the movie is not well defined regarding the relationship of the two boys. The role Mathieu’s mother is never really developed either and the cause of her melancholy is not disclosed until way too late. Somehow the movie manages to almost recover from these problems by capturing how people grow apart because of a difference in temperament. The actors are wonderful and with its faults, “Come Undone” is an extremely satisfying movie.
It is basically a simple story which gives a picture of vacillating passion and had it not been told through a series of vignettes it might have been a bit more satisfying. The youth in the film are slightly moody and troubled, longing for affection and each willing to give of himself in a new relationship and we are privy to their need for companionship and for escape from the mundane reality of a domestic environment.
I have t admit that I had to think carefully before I could decide if I really liked the movie or not. The more I think about I realize that I like it even more and more. It makes no attempt to be like an American film, carefully arranged. It is meant to test our memories and often throughout the movie I actually felt I was right there with the actors, experiencing what they were and feeling what they felt. The director pulls the viewer in and this could be a reason for feeling disappointed by it in the beginning. It is important to realize that the film is not a narrative but an emotional journey.
Everything about the movie is used to draw the viewer in, the lighting, the set and the camera work—everything is rich and lush and alive with nuance and detail. It seems that French film has a way of dealing with drama about life and “Cone Undone” is such a movie. The narrative is sliced and put back together and this adds to the emotionality of the film,
This is not a rosy story-it is sad and complex and frustrating but it works its magic quietly. I think it stands on its own only after it is over and you have had a chance to think about it. It is a story about teens but it is an adult story with its cruelty and its darkness. There is beauty and sadness, silences and ellipses, shadows and light and it is beautiful. You will notice that my mind seems to have changed during the writing of this review because the movie is still haunting me. Its purpose is not to show us a summer romantic fling with solid characters that fall in love and live happily after. Rather this is a movie for young men who are attracted to young men. It is not really a movie to entertain but it is a movie to make you think and make you feel. It is a beautiful portrait of the experiences of the young homosexual and eschews stereotypes and preaching. It is simply wonderfully naturalistic and superbly acted, photographed with a sense of the sea in a place where love happens. The simple humanism presented in the film is worth a view and a thought.