“Maybe we won’t split up. Maybe we’ll stay together.”
This French-Belgian drama, originally released with the title “L’économie du couple” (which translates as “The economy of the couple” – I didn’t even need Google for that one!), does something that few dramas of this ilk actually manage to do. It stays with you far longer than its closing credits – it lingers in a way that is both discomforting and truly unapologetic. It offers much to say about the metaphorically bloody aftermath of the ending of a relationship by not posing questions or answering questions – it simply is. In this regard it is most certainly geared towards an arthouse audience and won’t appeal to everyone – yet for those of whom it does draw in they won’t leave dissatisfied as the film is extremely moving and compassionately made.
After 15 years – during which they’ve had twins, bought and renovated a house together – Boris (Kahn) and Marie (Bejo) have decided to end their relationship. Yet they still live together. That’s because Boris needs to find somewhere new to live, something he cannot do unless he has his share of the house. Yet unable to come to an agreement with Marie about how much he is entitled to he must remain in the family home, negotiating the many trials and tribulations that occur when cohabiting with an ex-partner.
The film is exceptionally unsentimental in its portrayal of the breakdown and consequences of Boris and Marie’s relationship. Aside from some melodrama late on into the film the disputes that arise between them are very suburban: dull, ordinary and very real. Though the dialogue is filled with comments that reveal their bitter struggle these are elevated by the actors performances. Both Kahn and Bejo tell so much with their eyes and facial expressions – their plan is equally seen and equally felt. Bejo in particular is able to showcase the spectrum of emotions that one in her possession would be going through – the conflicted blend of distress, anger, frustration, sadness and pity – regularly switching between them in a way that is fully understandable. Both show without saying their internal confusion at the question of ‘How did it come to this?’
In many ways that’s why the original title is all the more poignant- there’s the literal financial economy along with the emotional economy. One of the film’s tensest moments is when Boris gatecrashes Marie’s dinner party and confronts the guests with the fact they choose her side over his. This along with their constant clashings over his possibly undertaking construction work at her mother’s home, not to mention the custody of their twins, reinforces the destructive consequences of the breakup of a modern marriage.
It’s understandable and all too relatable. A raw piece of filmmaking that will break your heart just a little.
Dir: Joachim Lafosse
Country: France-Belgian Year: 2016 Run time:100 minutes