D'amour et d'eau fraîche
France, 2010, 89 min
The French title of Isabelle Czajka’s impressive second feature, which translates literally as “living on love and fresh water,” is a common French saying that evokes the idea that love—and a little water—is all you need to survive. The romantic idealism of that timeworn message gets a satirical reassessment in this complexly woven story about a 23-year-old French woman trying to make it on her own. Julie is pretty, tough, independent and yet floundering in the cold, hard business world of Paris. Her attempts to keep a job fail. There is something reckless about Julie, and something sad about the way she seems to give up believing in anything. The love story that eventually develops is part of that recklessness, but it’s not hard to understand why Julie would follow a charming young man of dubious employment to the South of France. It is the land of Pierrot le Fou after all, and the gloomy predicament of a lonely, disaffected young woman suddenly transforms into the exciting misadventures of a girl, a guy and a gun. Anaïs Demoustier, who starred in Czajka’s debut feature L’année suivante, is extraordinary as Julie. She conveys a complicated mixture of vulnerability and hardened cynicism, passivity and aggressiveness, which makes the film all the more intriguing in its exploration of love and power. Is Living on Love Alone a cautionary tale or a tragic love story? Its ambiguous ending only begs the question further—and will leave you overwhelmed.