Amant Double, 2017.
Directed by Francois Ozon.
Starring Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier, and Jacqueline Bisset.
Chloé, a fragile young woman, falls in love with her psychoanalyst, Paul. A few months later she moves in with him, but soon discovers that her lover is concealing a part of his identity.
Amant Double is destined to draw comparisons (and probably already has) to the recent film adaptations of Fifty Shades of Grey which would normally cause me to send all of you lovely readers running for the hills, but not in this case. Directed by Francois Ozon (Frantz) and based on the novel Lives of the Twins by Joyce Carol Oates, this erotic thriller dives deep into psychological territory rather than blast garbage mainstream pop music over flaccid sexual encounters. It isn’t necessarily about BDSM lifestyle choices but provides a peek into submissive and dominant relationship dynamics, albeit with a mind-bending presentation involving long-buried secrets, repressed emotions, depression, mental instability, mysterious stomach pains, and a pair of twin psychiatrist brothers.
Chloe (Marine Vacth) enlists cognitive help from a psychoanalyst named Paul (Jeremie Renier, who has a name sounding similar to the French equivalent of Jeremy Renner, but actually looks like a bearded French Alexander Skarsgard) for her all around lack of fulfillment with life ranging from being disconnected from family, having no friends but a trusting and loyal cat (he even looks on throughout the numerous intimate encounters as if he’s a watchful protector of sorts), feeling disappointed with her job and career trajectory, is bordering on anorexia, possibly might be making up stomach pains in her head, and again, appears to be a complete mental wreck. Nevertheless, Paul disobeys what has to be the absolute first role in the psychiatric code of ethics: he falls for and inevitably dates his patient, letting her move into his home, all within the first 15 minutes of the film.
In many ways, this results in the opening of the film lacking in believability and coming across distant (I don’t and will never care for couples that get magically involved with one another based on sexual attraction alone), until the true premise of Amant Double is revealed upon Chloe spotting Paul’s identical twin while looking on outside from her bus commute home. Logically, she mistakes this man to be Paul himself but after he casually denies knowing of the man’s existence she decides to take up counseling from him as well (she states that the depression and stomach pains have returned even though they’ve been living together for a few months as a misdirection to Paul, lying that she will be seeing a female psychiatrist). Not only are Paul and Louis’ (both wildly different individuals played by the aforementioned Jeremie Renier) preferred methods of healing just as polar opposite as their personalities, this is where the previously touched upon exploration of submissive and dominant relationship culture come into play.
Louis may view himself as a productive psychiatrist that achieves results by way of forcing women to broaden their horizons sexually and confront their repressions, but there’s no way around that he is both a rapist and a monster. Chloe begins to enjoy the roughness (again, if you actually believe that Fifty Shades of Grey was kinky, Amant Double will prove to be at the very least, eye-opening, in addition to strikingly photographed by Manuel Dacosse utilizing different precarious positions, mirrors, artistic shot inside Chloe’s throat mid-orgasm, and even a sequence making use of CGI doubles playing off of the dual personality theme) undergoing a sexual awakening. For perspective, there is a great line where she declares that she is always envisioning the twin opposite she is having sex with. If that wasn’t enough, Marine Vacth certainly delivers a terrific bipolar performance; when Chloe is depressed she often struggles to make eye contact and appears emotionless, but that changes in subtle ways throughout the movie, notably during sex and her investigation of what separated these two brothers. Jeremie Renier is also impressive as he gets the much more drastic personality shift from an acting point of view of sensitive and caring boyfriend to full-on psychotic despicable sexual assaulter under the twisted impression he’s doing something constructive.
The web of secrets at the core of Amant Double is fairly silly but admittedly creative; the ending is definitely a complete mindfuck that further expands on the commentary rooted in genetics and split personalities. Even when it’s reasonable to suspect it may be headed into cliché territory, the picture rarely does, and if so, only stays there for a quick scene or two. Of course, considering that a good amount is ludicrous and unrealistic, there are a frustrating number of plot gripes, but thankfully nothing too bothersome factoring in that it is so damn sexy, thrilling, and rich in romantic metaphors.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com