Parisian film-maker and illustrator Céline Devaux, whose award-winning shorts have been shown at Cannes and Venice, now makes her feature debut with a salty romcom character study; it is deceptively slight, though leaning heavily on a certain kind of quirkiness, and undoubtedly intriguing.
Jeanne is an entrepreneur who has fallen into a depression caused by the death of her mother and the recent bizarre collapse of her business; she has an inner anxiety-voice represented by Devaux’s own sketches of the cartoon-ghost in her head, always nagging at her. An undersea device for hoovering up microplastics, into which Jeanne invested every cent of her own money, became unmoored and Jeanne was humiliatingly shown on the TV news as she desperately dived fully clothed into the sea in a doomed attempt to save it. She is played by Blanche Gardin – who was Léa Seydoux’s producer and best friend in Bruno Dumont’s media satire France – and brings a certain kind of not-yet-irretrievable jadedness to the role.
Jeanne can now rescue herself from bankruptcy by selling her late mother’s Lisbon flat, a place with so many painful memories – but in journeying to Portugal she has to deal with her slightly louche ex-boyfriend Vitor (Nino Lopes). At the airport she meets a very strange guy called Jean (Laurent Lafitte) – apparently a school contemporary – who says some bold, odd, and yet weirdly seductive things to her.
At first, it seems that this is going to be extremely ironic comedy about a creepy acquaintance from schooldays, or even a psychological thriller in the vein of Dominik Moll’s Harry, He’s Here to Help. But in his unfiltered, unguarded way, Jean opens up about mental health issues that seem far from resolved (he actually steals a motorbike in the course of the action without getting into trouble, an interestingly transgressive scene).
The movie just rolls along, with entertaining setpiece scenes about Jean, Vitor and Jeanne’s amiable brother Simon (Maxence Tual). The film also uses children – Simon’s son, and Jean’s niece – with great charm and Jeanne’s vulnerabilities are tenderly portrayed.
• Everybody Loves Jeanne is released on 27 July on Mubi in the UK and on 7 September in Australian cinemas.