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Sorry Angel

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday May 21, 2019
'Sorry Angel'
'Sorry Angel'  

The poster for "Sorry Angel" shows both of the movie's main characters in bed together with a secondary player. They look to be having an awful lot of fun. It's a good image for marketing purposes, but not for giving audience members an accurate idea of what sort of film this is.

On the other hand, were one to describe this as "an AIDS drama set in Paris in the early 1990s," that, too, would be misleading. Not that it isn't an AIDS drama set in Paris in the early 1990s — '93, to be specific — but the film is also so much more than that. It's a romance, a character study, and an unmistakably French existential crisis. It's also more fun than you might expect — not three-guys-in-a-bed fun (this is not a sex romp, and the poster image comes from a scene that plays out a little differently than it suggests), but fun in a swaggering, look-death-in-the-eye-and-say-fuck-it way.

Christophe Honoré ("Man at Bath") writes and directs this stylish film, which has shades of films like "Longtime Companion," "Buddies," and the Herve Guibert novel "To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life," but which also marks out its own distinct territory. Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps, star of 2013's classic "Stranger By the Lake") is a writer in his mid-30s. He's arrogant, crabby, and living with HIV at a time when the plague has yet to be made manageable by modern medicine. Under his cynical front he's also soft-hearted and lonely, and he has a liking for younger men, though they generally can't hold up to his intellectual scrutiny or his emotionally rough way of offering affection.

Enter Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a young man just moving out of the phase in his life when he sleeps with women — like Nadine (Adèle Wismes) — and beginning to embrace his true sexuality and, with it, the potential for love. Arthur is playful and fearless, quailing neither from the plague nor from Jacques' taunts, torments, and emotional gauntlets. As the film progresses — with Jacques navigating professional and personal complications, and Arthur coming into his own — the two gradually wend their way closer to each other.

Honoré allows his film room to breathe and grow organically. Jacques is not so much a mentor to Arthur as an older friend who challenges him in just the right ways; Arthur is not the sweet young thing who single-handedly pries Jacques out of his armor. (There's a scene of heartbreaking tenderness and humor in which Jacques, having taken in a sick former lover named Marco [Thomas Gonzalez], cradles Marco in the bathtub while they talk, earnestly but also lightly, about sex and death.) This isn't the story of an operatic love match, but one that happens at an opportune moment — a story not of eternal fulfillment, but rare possibility.

Sweet and powerful, this is a film to take in rather than to resist.

On DVD May 21
Strand Releasing

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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