Love Me If You Dare (Jeux d’enfants)

Director: Yann Samuell

(France| 2003. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 93 mins.)

At the beginning of Yann Samuell’s Jeux d’enfants, we meet Julien and Sophie: eight-year-old best friends, adorable tricksters and borderline psychotics. On one of childhood’s darker days, as Julien gradually becomes aware that his cherished mother is fatally ill, he stands up for Sophie by pulling a mischievous stunt on classmates who had viciously taunted her. From that moment on, Julien and Sophie will trade fearful and hilarious dares for decades, taking manic pleasure in trying to outdo each other’s audacity or cunning. They swear, insult authorities, stop traffic to share a youthful kiss and try to ruin a wedding or two. They are irrepressible, as is the love they will ultimately share. They may have their differences and may find themselves in other relationships as they move through their teens and into adulthood, yet it is always clear they are meant to be together.
Samuell’s directing debut is as precocious as its lead characters. Practised both in filmmaking and the graphic arts, he makes virtuoso use of spiralling camera shots, a vivid palette and fantasy sequences ranging from rain-slicked asphalt that transforms into a lake to a child’s reverie recreating the Garden of Eden as a larger-than-life diorama. The film is a stunning ode to la vie en rose; at its best moments it is delirious in its pursuit of an aesthetic that mirrors the giddiness of love and longing.

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