In outline, Abdellatif Kechiche’s follow up to Blue Is The Warmest Colour is like a 3-hour Love Island: twentysomethings gossip, flirt smoke, dance, shag in a sun-kissed locale. But, what it lacks in story and dramatic incident, Mektoub, My Love more than makes up for in a series of set-pieces that thrum with naturalism.
Set in 1994 in the South of France, the plot, as it is, follows the inscrutable Amin (Boumédine) who has an unspoken thing for Ophélie (Bau) who is having an affair with Tony (Kechiouche) who is growing bored with Charlotte (Alexia Chardard) etc. But rather than a conventional narrative, it’s a series of extended scenes that create tangible sensory experiences — a lengthy nightclub scene will have you hankering for a Kebab and an Uber home — and somehow mine depths of character and feeling through simply observation.
A reminder of Blue Is The Warmest Colour’s candid carnality, it starts off with an extended committed sex scene between Ophélie and Tony, watched by Amin. Time and again Kechiche’s camera drools over its scantily clad female cast, a male gaze that does the film’s range of women an injustice. When his camera manages to raise itself beyond the bikini bottoms, its handheld style creates an intimacy, a sense of life being lived in the moment (in a bizarre sideline, the story takes in the real time birth of two baby lambs so immediate you expect Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan to pop up). In stretches, the veracity is thrilling to watch.
But the film suffers from repetitions and longueurs. Part of the problem is the central character. While newcomer Shaïn Boumédine is suitably sensitive and sympathetic, Amin remains an essentially passive and unknowable presence which creates a lack of dynamism at the film’s centre. But if you surrender to its rhythms and get drawn in by the unaffected performances, long stretches of Kechiche’s film are intoxicating.