Unforgivable

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Laura Clifford 
Unforgivable

Robin Clifford 

French thriller writer Francis (André Dussollier, "Tell No One," "Wild Grass") thinks the private cottage on the Venetian island of S'ant Erasmo is beyond his means, but is so taken with rental agent Judith (Carole Bouquet, "Red Lights") that he agrees to rent the place if she'll move in with him.  One and a half years later, they're married and living happily there when his daughter Alice (Mélanie Thierry, "The Princess of Montpensier") comes to stay with her daughter Vicky (Zoé Duthion).  Alice and her disappearance are the catalyst for churning up all kinds of past secrets which are "Unforgivable."

Laura:
Cowriter (with Mehdi Ben Attia)/director André Téchiné ("Wild Reeds," "The Girl on the Train") makes films about people, often families, facing intense circumstances, but with "Unforgivable" he's overreached himself, stirring too many ingredients into the pot.  The film could be seen as the extreme lengths people will go to act out against those that hurt them but it is difficult to figure out just which character is unforgivable. The film is intriguing for a time, and Venice locations and the still stunning Bouquet make it a treat for the eye, but by the time threads are (somewhat) pulled together in the third act, most will be beyond caring.

It's also difficult to figure out who's who initially, as a jumble of relationships are thrown at us.  After her meeting with Francis, Judith confides in best friend Anna Maria (Adriana Asti, "The Best of Youth") who used to be her lover.  Anna Maria still pines for Judith, but tells her that an artist, like Francis, would be perfect for her.  Judith also apparently lends Anna Maria 1K Euros - everyone in this film is short of cash. Anna Maria in turn provides the money to her jailed son Jérémie (Mauro Conte), who is on the verge of coming home.  Meanwhile, fast forwarded back to S'ant Erasmos, Alice hints to Judith that her mother committed suicide over her father's cheating ways.  The next day she's gone and Francis is beside himself.  Judith checks with twenty-something Alvise (Andrea Pergolesi), fading aristocracy who now makes his money dealing drugs, but does not find Alice in his palazzo.  She suggests Francis hire Anna Maria to find her, Anna Maria being a retired P.I.(!).  Alice's husband Roger (Alexis Loret, "Alice and Martin") arrives in a helicopter to bring his daughter back to Zurich.  Then the volatile Jérémie comes home and the plot doesn't merely thicken, it congeals.

Early on Francis says he cannot write when he's in love - is this why he hires Jérémie to tail his wife, to upend his marriage?  We discover Jérémie's always in trouble for beating on the gay men who approach him, a reaction to his mother's sexual preference?  Alice is found in Paris by Anna Maria and sends a DVD to dad which she ends by seducing Alvise.  As the story unfolds, it appears that Judith has sampled most of the characters in the film.  The young man (Stefano Scandaletti) who chases Jérémie with a couple of armed buddies who ends up in the canal takes a shocking, horrible revenge.  Then Jérémie does something worse. Francis is always there for Jérémie, yet the young man constantly rebuffs and insults him - is there a payoff for this relationship?  Not in this movie.

Or is Téchiné making a statement about aristocracy's decline, using Venice as his muse?  La comtesse (Sandra Toffolatti), Alvise's mother, is fading and wishes to sell her estate to set up her son, just like Anna Maria.  In "Unforgivable," Téchiné keeps throwing out teasing ideas, but he never makes good on any of them.

C

Robin:
Crime novelist Francis (Andre Dussolier) suffers from writer’s block and journeys to Venice to try to clear the cobwebs from his head and get writing again. While looking for a place to live, he meets real estate agent Judith (Carole Bouquet) and convinces her to move in with him.. However, the romance begins to fade and Francis becomes increasingly jealous of her and has Judith followed, an act that is “Unforgivable.”

It would be a lot simpler if director and co-scribe Andre Techine had focused on Francis and Judith and their story. This does not happen as that tale quickly dovetails to include a bevy of other characters, each with their own story. You need a score card to keep track of who is who and why they are here. Beside Francis and Judith, there in Anna Maria, a private detective and Judith’s ex-lover; Alice (Melanie Thierry), Francis’s wayward daughter who abandoned her husband and child for Alvise (Andrea Pergolesi), a ne’er-do-well drug dealer in Venice; then, there is Jeremie (Mauro Conte), Anna Maria’s convict son due to be released from prison. There are other characters but this gives an idea of the kitchen sink that is “Unforgivable.”

The multi-layer cake story has one or three too many. So many characters and individual stories make things both confused and choppy and co-scribe Techine should have gotten rid of a few of the layers. I give it C.
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