Sarah, a renowned author making a decent living with a series of books with the character of Inspector Dorwell somewhat shies away from the throws of recognition and seems to hate almost being worshiped. She’s experiencing a creative meltdown of a sorts and is sent by her publisher, with whom she’s having an affair with, to his country house in the far end of France away from civilization to work on her new book, though she isn’t sure what she’s writing yet. She gets more than she bargains for asking for inspiration when her publisher’s daughter Julie comes to stay at the house unannounced. The two instantly dislike one another, and are exact opposites; Sarah played by the elegant and stunning Charlotte Rampling is a somewhat withdrawn, cold and uptight woman while Julie played by Ludivine Sagnier is stunning, very, very sexy, seductive, adventurous, and very mysterious, but the two don’t like each other.
Sarah is more quiet and Julie is loud, the two present polar opposite qualities to the full extent and have opposite habits. But when Julie, the beautiful French girl turns out to be more than Sarah can handle coming home with a new man every night and rebelling, Sarah discovers she has a shady past and then begins probing her past for inspiration for her new book. When Julie discovers what Sarah is doing, things take a turn for the worse and you begin to wonder is she really dangerous or is her past a work of fiction to toy with Sarah? What you discover will make you think twice. I’d heard good things about this from critics everywhere and I was simply fascinated by this but I couldn’t understand why exactly. This film which is a mix of “Crush” and “The Business of Strangers” gives some incredible character study.
There’s Sarah who is everything Julie is not, but somehow she bears a fascination with her, a fascination that borders a bit on obsession. Ludivine Sagnier, well, there’s no real explanation I can give to describe her sex appeal. She’s just the epitome of sexy in this film with a raspy French voice, beautiful hair, green eyes, and a body to kill, she’s the highlight of the film and she can act. She’s a mix of many personalities, vulnerable, immature, sexy, presumptuous and creepy at certain points, you’re never sure what her intentions are toward Sarah until the Lynchian shocker of an ending that will leave many in the audience giving their own interpretation of what it means. The two interact throughout the film and they have some good chemistry together often becoming a paradox for their dichotomous relationship attempting to outdo one another but somehow never coming to a full fledged friendship.
As I mentioned, they are complete polar opposites with one another with pasts that are somewhat shady, including Julie whom bears a mysterious scar, and a personality that will keep audiences guessing and baffled. Sarah is an introverted person who seeks inspiration for her next book and gains a really odd and interesting fascination for the girl’s raw sexuality and free-spirited nature including her tendency to flaunt her body whenever possible as much as possible, and you don’t see me complaining. Director Francois Ozon creates a simple but beautiful film that’s shown in a somewhat hazy form making the entire film seem like one fantasy, he accentuates everything from the beautiful scenery right down to Ludivine Sagnier’s incredible sexual presence. The swimming pool in the film is symbolic for many of the stories attributes as a sort of portal in which the two characters hover around and really bares its meaning in the end.
All of the activity hovers around the pool, even the house looks out onto the pool which is a mirror into the history of the family and house. Charlotte Rampling is great in this role as the interesting and sometimes very funny Sarah. Ultimately, the film does end on a high note with a surprise ending that will leave many scratching its head as it did me, but you have to appreciate a film that takes a routine approach but completely pulls the carpet out from under you in the climax with an ending that gives you no sure answer. This is a very well directed with a good story, great characters, and involving engrossing performances from Charlotte Rampling and Ludivine Sagnier. With taut storytelling and a mind-blowing ending, this is surely a film to remember. Did I mention Ludivine Sagnier is smoking hot? I would personally learn French just to tell Ludivine Sagnier how hot I think she is.