Madly in love and settled (if unmarried), Alex and Noémie’s next big project is to have a child – a decision which delights Alex’s art dealer mother Suzanne who insists on buying an expensive mattress for his birthday rather than the usual book. He finds this generosity hard to accept, revealing a hardness in his character symptomatic of a natural worrier, but it is Noémie who first notices odd behavioural tics in Suzanne. Following the discovery that for the past two years Suzanne has completely mishandled her financial affairs, a diagnosis of semantic dementia is made, and her behaviour becomes even more challenging, eccentric and playful. The realisation dawns – Alex and Noémie already have a big kid to care for.
Madly in Life is a companion piece to The Father, the other film to deal with dementia in this year’s programme, but takes a fundamentally different approach. While that film examines the pathos of the situation, this celebrates the humanity which remains when cognitivity is reduced, and even manages to infuse the subject with humour. The real issue here is the challenge for others and their struggle for acceptance – in this sense the central character is Alex, who is initially embarrassed and bitter about his mother’s condition and finds it troubles him more than it does others (who are often infected by the joy that Suzanne’s heightened inhibition brings). The film’s light touch is also applied to the couple’s relationship – the opening scene, during which they squarely face an off-screen doctor while discussing Noémie’s prospects for pregnancy and she details more about their sex life than is comfortable for Alex, is brilliantly revealing about the dynamic between these two very different personalities as well as being hilarious. For anyone touched by dementia the film will be an absorbing watch, and for those who have not it remains a finely-judged, heart-warming and often funny drama offering much food for thought.
‘The director duo’s first feature is a home-run in every single way, and easily one of the finest films I’ve seen this year.’ - Seth Eelen, into:screens