“The Man of my Life”
Strand Releasing has a new hit on its hands, “The Man of my Life”. It is beautifully filmed and tenderly directed by Zabou Breitman. The story is of a relationship between a married man and his gay neighbor during a summer in Provence, France. A couple and their young son invite friends and family to spend the summer holiday with them and a neighbor, a middle-aged single man is invited to the first night outdoor party. We quickly learn that the neighbor is gay and as the movie progresses and the husband begin a friendship. It sounds simple enough and it is but what catches the viewer are the beautiful visual aspects of the film and the wonderful background music. Both make the movie a feast for the eyes and ears.
“The Man of my Life” is a languid morality tale about a couple that seems to be completely happy but whose certainty about their marriage is shaken by unexpected homosexual flirtation. Frederic (Bernard Campan who gives a wonderful performance), his wife Frederique (Lea Drucker) are again vacationing at their favorite spot in Provence at Frederic’s family home. The usual endless stream of family and friends visits them but this year Hugo (Charles Berling) is a new addition to the crowd. When Frederique suggests that Hugo be invited over, things begin to change in the idyllic setting. Hugo is not one for large parties and prefers quiet tête-à-têtes but does manage to shake things up at the first party that he attends by announcing that he is gay. As the party begins to come to a close, we see Hugo and Frederic on the terrace discussing love. Hugo claims to only be in love while making love and reality wants no part of what is known as love. Frederic feels quite differently and says that it is love that makes a person feel alive. This chat is the opening of what is to become a relationship between the two men and the bond that they form threatens to become something stronger and more intense than just friendship. Frederic begins to lose interest in having sex with his wife and she feels that she is about to lose her husband to another man.
At different places during the film, we return to the terrace and that night when the two men first spoke to each other. We hear Hugo’s thoughts on love and passion and they make an impression on Frederic. It is these impressions that propel the plot and take us to new levels not often expressed on film. The film is basically a middle-age coming-of-age story but it is so richly portrayed that it touches the viewer deeply.
The performances are wonderful and the way a relationship comes into being after an all night conversation is portrayed achingly beautifully. This is not a straightforward love story but is about the transformation and awakening of a man who had not been paying attention to his own life.
Zabou Breitman chose to open up the unconventional with this film and shows us that each of us is looking for an answer. We are on a journey as we try to formulate a stance on love and how it is situated in our lives. He looks at all aspects of masculine love and presents us with the alternatives to what so many think is the only way to live. The film is romantic, exceedingly so but it is also very realistic. We learn gradually about love as seen and explained by the characters. What could easily have been a rather sappy movie turns out to be one of sublime beauty and a pleasure to watch.