Boyfriends and Girlfriends (1987)

The last of Rohmer’s ‘Comedies & Proverbs’ series is a gratifying watch on what it means to fall in love—or break up—with friends and lovers. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Review #2,067

Dir. Eric Rohmer
1987 | France | Drama/Romance/Comedy | 103 mins | 1.66:1 | French
PG (passed clean) for some mature themes

Cast: Emmanuelle Chaulet, Sophie Renoir, Eric Viellard, Francois-Eric Gendron, Anne-Laure Meuryerge
Plot: Blanche and Lea meet and become friends. Lea is thinking of leaving her boyfriend Fabien, and Blanche falls for Lea’s dashing, witty friend Alexandre, but is tongue-tied with him. Lea goes on holiday, and Blanche, still smitten with Alexandre, begins to get to know Fabien.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto)
Source: Les Films du Losange

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Love, Relationships
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

This is one of Eric Rohmer’s underrated offerings, closing his ‘Comedies & Proverbs’ series in a gratifying way.  Also known as The Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, Boyfriends and Girlfriends (this title better reflects what Rohmer was trying to accomplish here) centers on Blanche (Emmanuelle Chaulet in a debut performance), a young woman who befriends Lea.

As their friendship develops, Lea’s boyfriend, Fabien, comes into the picture; concurrently, another man, Alexandre, whom Blanche is infatuated with, also figures in Rohmer’s intricate plotting. 

With wall-to-wall dialogue, the film tackles the relational dynamics amongst the quartet, blurring the lines between friendship and romance.  What does it mean to fall in love—or break up—with friends and lovers?  This is the central question of Boyfriends and Girlfriends

“I accept. But you mustn’t date anyone, either.”

Compelling at every turn, Rohmer’s screenwriting artistry and his impeccable gift for pacing conversations to reveal not just intimate connections but hidden feelings between characters are sublime, culminating in a suspenseful denouement where you wouldn’t know which way the narrative will go, or how the characters would react to changing circumstance and new information. 

Chaulet’s performance is top-notch, portraying Blanche as an insecure, and at times, woeful prognosticator of love.  Love is such a complicated thing, and Chaulet’s facial expressions, by turns coy and skittish, tells us all we need to know about why we are beholden to the four-letter word, paralysing yet liberating us within the same stroke. 

Grade: A-


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