We enter our tale already in progress. A man (Mark Rylance) and a woman (Kerry Fox) don’t even know each other’s name. However, somehow they’ve managed to connect and when we first meet them they are about to engage in what is their weekly tryst. Their relationship is meant to be just sex, no intimacy. In reality that’s supposed to mean no complications, but sex always seems to bring that about anyway. The man, who has an ex-wife and daughter, wants more. He follows her away from his apartment after one of their sessions to discover that she has a very current husband, child, and perhaps a few nuances he had not quite expected. Then the whole mess gets really complicated.
Though working in English and in an English setting, you might know director Patrice Chereau better from his French films, such as “Queen Margot”. After viewing this movie you’d probably expect a French filmmaker as no one can quite take the fun out of sex like the French. Despite or because of their graphic nature, the sex scenes are far less than erotic. They do have a certain animal quality that’s probably meant to express impersonal and needy qualities at the same time. Unfortunately, too much of the whole film is like that. Mark Rylance is a great actor but his character is never allowed to develop as a likeable person. He kind of alternates between self-absorbed and self-loathing. Eventually you might loathe him too. There are things to like, particularly Timothy Spall as the woman’s husband. It just seems that the alienation of the characters doesn’t match that displayed by the director. It’s ironic that a film exploring the mysteries of how people succeed and fail to connect with each other then fails to really connect with its audience.