Emotions are way too closeted

Movie review

October 26, 2001|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

What happens when a character-driven movie about relationships features neither interesting characters nor interesting relationships?

What happens is Come Undone (Presque Rien), French writer-director Sebastien Lifshitz's look at two teen boys on the cusp of manhood who fall in love, spend a summer at the beach enjoying the pleasure of each other's company, then fall out of love and move on.

If all that sounds less-than-thrilling, you understand the crux of the problem with this heartfelt, if emotionally detached, work.

Lifshitz approaches Come Undone with a welcome clear-headedness, and neither sensationalizes nor plays down the film's central relationship. But what he doesn't do is give us characters who really warrant exploring, or a relationship that is more than what appears on the surface.

Eighteen-year-old Mathieu (Jeremie Elkaim) is spending his summer at the beach, sharing a house with his sick mother, controlling aunt and joy-free sister. Little wonder he's looking for someone, or something, to take his mind off the home front.

He finds it one afternoon in Cedric (Stephane Rideau), who sells candy at the local amusement park and spends his free time on the beach ogling Mathieu. The two hit it off, albeit a bit rockily at first: Mathieu is new to the gay lifestyle, and Cedric doesn't react well to his new lover's insistence that they try to keep their relationship quiet.

Mathieu's comfort level increases gradually, and soon, he's introducing Cedric to the family. Aunt and sis react none-too-well, but mom seems genuinely pleased that her son has found happiness.

But as with almost all first love affairs, Cedric and Mathieu soon grow apart. For Mathieu, the important question becomes, what's next? Is he ready to embrace his new lifestyle, or chalk it up to experience?

Come Undone would have benefited immensely from less constricted performances from Elkaim and Rideau, both of whom go through the film determined not to crack a smile. In fact, the film could have used more honest emotion overall, demonstrations of feelings that go beyond the mere surface or the mere physical. The touching scene where Mathieu tells his mother about his relationship with Cedric hints at what the movie could have been.

Lifshitz jumps back and forth in time throughout the film, purposely trying to pull attention away from the narrative and focus it more intently on the characters (he even leaves out key details of Mathieu and Cedric's time together, leaving it to the audience to fill in the blanks). It's an interesting approach that might have worked to the film's benefit, if only his characters were more worthy of our attention in the first place.

Come Undone

Starring Jeremie Elkaim, Stephane Rideau

Directed and co-written by Sebastien Lifshitz

Rated Unrated (sex, language, nudity). In French, with English subtitles

Released by Picture This! Entertainment

Running time 92 minutes

Sun score * * 1/2

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