Love Like Poison / Un Poison Violent

Love Like Poison / Un Poison Violent

Static Mass Rating: 2/5
Artificial Eye 

Release date: May 13th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 92 minutes

Original language: French/Italian with English subtitles
Country of origin: France

Director: Katell Quillevere
Writer: Katell Quillevere

Cast: Clara Augarde, Lio, Michel Galabru, Stefano Cassetti, Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil

Perhaps it’s the empiricist in me, but I would have liked something a bit more concrete and tangible with Love Like Poison. What I hoped would be a frank exploration of human sexuality and the contradiction it presents with the Catholic religion turned out to be somewhat restrained and coy.

Anna (Clara Augarde) returns home for the holidays after being away at Catholic boarding school to find that her father and mother are no longer together. As if this isn’t enough for the teenager to deal with, her mother (Lio) has taken to going to confession and spends a lot of evenings in the company of the local priest (Stefano Cassetti).

Love Like Poison

As she’s preparing for her confirmation, Anna’s faith is tested by Pierre (Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil), a free-spirited boy who doesn’t share her beliefs. She reclines at his advances at first but as the urge to give her body to him becomes overwhelming, Anna worries about her soul.

Love Like Poison is a very gentle film which aims to deal with some complex and dramatic themes such as God, sex, relationships, adolescence and spirituality. But its approach is too timid to make it work. While its cinematography captures the melancholy French village beautifully and the performances by Clara Augarde and Youen Leboulanger-Gourvil are commendable, they don’t have the dialogue, conflicts or development to really drive the story to a point where it becomes compelling.

Love Like Poison

As a result Love Like Poison only manages to touch on each of its themes without elaborating on them. The scenes with Anna and her bed-ridden grandfather (Michel Galabru) are warm and tender, up until he happily displays an erection as she bathes him and later on flashes her pre-pubescent crotch for him. It wants to tell us more, something about repression in Catholic households in small provincial villages, but seems hesitant to do so. It’s almost as if writer and director Katell Quillevere is Anna in her approach to the story.

Love Like Poison

There’s an homage to Thérèse by Cavalier and a reference to Serge Gainsbourg with the French title, “Un Poison violent” as Quillevere commingles the erotic with the sacred but nothing tells us why these things are important to Anna, what consequences any of this will have for her or if in fact it’s all arbitrary, which is my own conclusion.

Perhaps I’m also too much of an existentialist to go along with Quillevere’s wholly Catholic idea that anything that results in pleasure is a sin and anything that brings suffering leads you closer to God. If this would be true then I should be happy that I found very little pleasure in this film.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.