Laura CliffordVisiting textile designer Emilie (Julie Gayet) accepts a ride with Nantes local, Gabriel (Michael Cohen), and the ride turns into the two having dinner. When Gabriel tries to get a good night kiss, Emilie rebuffs him. She explains her reluctance with a story about best friends Judith (Vieginie Ledoyen) and Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret) and the trouble that can happen when they ask the question, “Shall We Kiss?”
Writer-director-star Emmanuel Mouret creates a layered story-in-a-story that does both sides Emilie and Gabriel, Judith and Nicolas justice with deft and frequently funny results. The parallel stories are well played by the actors. Mouret allows himself and his co-stars to develop their characters beyond mere French sex farce with puppy dog Nicolas enlisting the help of pretty Judith to “cure” him of his lack of spontaneous affection. The other story, between Emilie and Gabriel, though not as focused as the latter, benefits from the chemistry between Gayet and Cohen.
The farcical nature that starts out in “Shall We Kiss?” takes a subtle turn into a love story. Writer Mouret has a talent for combining the silly with the sweet as Nicolas and Judith almost wordlessly make the decision to fix his affection problem. There is an innocence, not usual in a French farce, as they, sitting side by side, shyly undress, finishing the job only when under the covers.
Shall We Kiss?” doesn’t break any new ground but it is executed with a deft hand by Mouret. The sweet romance between Nicolas and Judith quietly unfolds as the titular question is brought to a bittersweet conclusion by Emiliee and Gabriel, answering the title query in a melancholy way. I give it a B.
"Shall We Kiss?" is the perfect choice for opening night of Boston’s MFA’s 13th Annual French Film Festival, the archetypal French film where people talk about sex throughout. Furthermore, it’s a romantic comedy that doesn’t always go where one expects as the repercussion of a kiss is given weighty exploration. B
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