It’s not quite clear whether or not Sophie Fillières’ ‘If You Don’t, I Will’ is meant to be funny. Most of this 102-minute long marital spat has us staring into Emmanuelle Devos’ gloom-struck face, trying to figure out whether we have an urge to giggle or not. She is a sulking middle-aged wife who, after one too many bickering sessions with her husband, goes AWOL in the local forest, and spends a week or so sleeping in the leaves, learning to make fire, befriending goats and doing lots of staring into the distance looking a bit pissed off. Meanwhile, spouse Mathieu Amalric gets on with his errands, confides in his personal trainer, mulls over the idea of an affair and discretely waits for his wife’s little mid-life crisis to run its course. The tone throughout is very sombre, from the introductory angst-ridden arguments and sharp exchanges between the couple, to the grave period of apartness that ensues – so sombre, in fact, that it becomes dryly comical. If deadpan humour in the face of melancholy was what Fillieres was going for, then the casting is excellent; both lead actors embody that wonderful essence of sad clowns – charisma and mournfulness etched fascinatingly into the lines of both their faces. The film could do with a tad larger helping of laugh-out-loud moments, though, as its hesitancy to fall definitely into the category of comedy – that along with a slightly dragging pace – is what weakens it. However, this oddball story is nevertheless a generally entertaining watch: sympathetic without being too self-indulgent and with an unexpectedly sweet conclusion.
This review comes from a screening at the 58th London Film Festival 2014 (LFF 2014).