Come Undone
Presque Rien
dir Sebastien Lifshitz
scr Sebastien Lifshitz, Stephane Bouquet
with Jeremie Elkaim, Stephane Rideau, Dominique Reymond, Marie Matheron, Laetitia Legrix, Nils Ohlund, Rejane Kerdaffrec, Guy Houssier, Violeta Ferrer, Robert Darmel, Marie-Claire Durand, Charline Levaque
release UK 26.Oct.01
01/France 1h48
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
With the same authentic, almost documentary-like filmmaking style as The Cold Lands, French filmmaker Lifshitz examines a summer holiday romance from an offbeat perspective. Mathieu (Elkaim) is on the coast for the summer, helping his mother (Reymond) recover from an illness, trying to get along with his bratty sister (Legrix), and pretending that he doesn't find the local boy Cedric (Rideau) attractive. Soon though the two of them are an item. But something goes wrong, and years later Mathieu travels back to the coast to figure out what happened.

Shot with handheld camera and natural lighting, the film captures the summer sunlight on the coastline like the memory of a particularly good beach holiday. And the unaffected performances help as well, making the characters all real people who act and react with unexpected authenticity. Yet the script is so disjointed, jumping around in time continually from the very beginning, giving us bits of scenes and fragments of information and never quite filling in the gaps. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does prevent us from truly identifying with anyone in the story, or from feeling a sense of outrage, relief, or whatever we would feel if we really understood what was going on. In many ways this loose approach is refreshing, but it's rather infuriating as well!
strong adult themes and situations, nudity, language cert 18 23.Oct.01

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Lee, Chicago: "This is, at times, powerful stuff. In other moments, it's frustratingly remote and non-linear to a fault. But the overall experience is tender and haunting. Elkaim is just fine as the quiet, uncertain, melancholy Mathieu, but the film belongs to Rideau and his galvanic screen presence. From the moment we first see him (longingly looking straight into the camera, no less), he's just about perfect with his aggressive yet vulnerable, street-smart while sensitive charisma. I returned for a repeat viewing to again experience Rideau's command of his character and ability to bring even the most reductive, simple (underwritten at times, maybe) moments to cinematic life. He's always been good -- witness Wild Reeds, Sitcom and Full Speed -- but here he's matured into a young actor of confidence, control and staggering physical presence. He seems to have found his acting center, if you will. Gay, straight, man or woman -- who wouldn't fall in love with him? Another curious bit: The French title Presque Rien has been incorrectly translated for American audiences as Come Undone. 'Presque rien' translates to 'almost nothing' or 'nothing left', which means more and makes more more sense in the context of this film." (5.Dec.01)

David, Grimsby, UK: 4.5/5 "This film is infinitely preferable to all the unreality and dross churned out by Hollywood. It's even better than the British Beautiful Thing because it doesn't shy away from gay sex. Stephane Rideau is perfect in every way as Cedric, a true gay hunk with Gallic charm. The interaction with Mathieu's family situation was skilfully portrayed. I was less happy with the portrayal of Mathieu's motivations when he ended the relationship; we weren't really shown what was going on in his mind. The final 10 minutes with Pierre did not really complete this excellent film adequately. It could have been cut by 10 and ended abruptly - this would have been more emotionally honest. The cinematography was superb; I loved the scene on the big dipper ride most of all. The film is so real, like life. There wasn't a single kitsch moment, and that's rare for a 'gay' film." (24.Nov.04)

2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall