Directed by: François Ozon
Premise: Based on the novel Lives of the Twins by Joyce Carol Oates. An emotionally fragile woman (Marine Vacth) falls in love with her psychiatrist (Jérémie Renier). She suspects that her lover is hiding part of his identity and discovers he has a twin brother.
What Works: Double Lover is an erotic thriller. This genre of film has mostly fallen out of favor in recent years and this film is nod backward to the heyday of these pictures from the 1980s and 90s while also pushing forward into contemporary territory. The erotic thriller is the cinematic equivalent of a trashy paperback novel and Double Lover satisfies all of the requirements of its genre. The basic premise of the story hits the familiar notes; a restless woman falls for a man but then discovers that there is more to her lover. He has an estranged twin brother and she uncovers secrets about the two of them that lead to morally ambiguous choices between passionate fulfillment and social responsibility. The filmmakers do a good job of keeping the audience engaged with a story that has a lot of twists and turns. It also has characters who are interesting. Double Lover is led by Marine Vacth as a woman who suffers from crippling anxiety and Vacth walks a line between being a smart and decisive heroine and also being vulnerable. The twin brothers are played by Jérémie Renier. He gauges his performance so that each brother is distinctly different while sharing a fundamental sameness and it is believable that Vacth’s character could fall for both of them. Double Lover also has a great style. The movie is well shot with effective use of lighting and reflective surfaces and the set design and cinematography give the film a vivid physicality. Erotic thrillers need sexual tension and this movie possess that; the scenes between Vacth and Renier’s characters are underscored by desire and the filmmakers allow that desire to burn until it finally pays off. Double Lover has a bit more going on in it than the usual erotic thriller and the movie exceeds our expectations with its psychological complexity and sexual audacity. The film digs into some substance about the way body and mind as well as trauma and desire are linked together and it uses those ideas to take the film in provocative directions.
What Doesn’t: Double Lover is probably going to have a narrow appeal. It deals with taboo subject matter and it is very blatantly sexual while also pressing into strange psychological territory. This movie is reminiscent of the work of David Lynch and David Cronenberg. Fans of those directors should definitely seek out Double Lover but viewers would wouldn’t enjoy a film like Blue Velvet or Dead Ringers aren’t going to respond to Double Lover either. And even taking this movie in the spirit in which it is intended, Double Lover relies heavily on coincidences and other logical inconsistencies. Characters make unlikely connections or show up in places without having a reason to be there and some of the twists retroactively create other problems. It’s never enough to spoil the movie. Double Lover is the kind of film that requires the viewer to let go of rational critiques and give themselves over to a more fantastic and associative way of thinking which is in keeping with the psychological themes of this movie.
DVD extras: Interviews and a trailer.
Bottom Line: Double Lover is an unusual film in a number of ways. It’s an erotic thriller with an impressive cinematic style that’s also uncommonly sophisticated. The movie might not be for everyone but Double Lover will appeal to viewers who enjoy psychosexual dramas.
Episode: #717 (September 23, 2018)