Love Me If You Dare

Director: Yann Samuell

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

Obsessive love begins early in this provocative Gallic twist on the romantic comedy. At eight years of age, Sophie realizes Julien is her kind of guy when she dares him to release the handbrake on the school bus, and he does it. A little tin carousel then becomes their talisman: each time it changes hands, it comes with a dare, and chickening out would only break the spell. Years pass by, but the mischief continues, as we find her taking an important high school oral examination with her bra and pants on over her clothes. Indeed, when Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard assume the roles of the grown-up characters, puerile naughtiness gives way to sexual humiliation and shocking violence. How far will their perverse ardour take them?
Writer-director Yann Samuell’s high-risk strategy is to shoot all this with the saturated colours and hyper-detailed storytelling delivery of an Amelie, playing surface prettiness against the dark desires beneath—it’s a bit like finding the bitterest lemon centre in your box of chocolates. The bad-seed charm manifests itself early on, though the giddy whirl of errant single-mindedness gathers momentum, taking it way beyond the parameters of acceptable social behaviour. Not every viewer will feel they can go all the way with Sophie and Julien, but the very point is surely that these two have disappeared into their own vortex at the expense of everything else. It certainly makes Love Me If You Dare a talking-point movie, and, if you love the old chanson ‘La vie en rose’, you’ll experience the joy of recognition. And then some.

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