Saturday 20 January 2018


Now in cinemas and soon to be released via the Mubi streaming platform, Lover for a Day is the latest film by Philippe Garrel about a young woman’s love affair with her college tutor and the friendship she forms with his daughter of the same age.

Philippe Garrel's daughter Esther, recently seen in Call Me By Your Name, stars as heartbroken young woman Jeanne, moving back home to live with her father and his young lover after breaking up with her boyfriend. Her father's girlfriend, Ariane (Louise Chevilotte), is a woman confident about her sexuality and aware of the power she has to manipulate men into doing what she wants, whereas Jeanne is far more openly emotional and comparatively "girlish" in her behaviour. Through their friendship they explore their differing stories and approaches to love and heartbreak. As Ariane says to Esther upon their first meeting, "you'll get over it. We always do".

It may be set in present day, but this could have been made at any point in the last 50 years. Shot in black and white and with an adoring love of the hum of busy Parisian streets, it's an unashamed French New Wave throwback that confirms to stereotypical French attitudes towards age gap romances, but not to its detriment. Although it is easy to have presumptions about an older teacher pursuing one of his students, Lover for a Day attempts to balance this with Gilles' worries that his younger lover will inevitably make love to someone else. It's an attitude that may come off as somewhat creepy to audiences unfamiliar with this dynamic, although one would suspect that audiences wanting to see a black and white French romantic drama will be accustomed to this very, almost stereotypically, European stance.

There are disturbing hints of jealousy, such as Ariane's reaction to Gilles' arriving home from work and giving his daughter a kiss on the cheek before approaching her, and a dramatic confrontation between the three leads that reads as a father telling off his two disobedient daughters. Coupled with the casting of director Garrel's real life daughter Esther, this dysfunctional family set up is something that could be studied in textbooks.

The poster inaccurately sells this film as something sweepingly romantic or possibly erotic, but it is neither of those things. It is an exploration of sexuality and the contrasting differences between girlhood and womanhood in two women of the same age. Lover for a Day packs in a hell of a lot of relationship drama for its zippy 76 minutes running time, but thanks to the compelling performances of its two female leads it remains a bright and breezy offering that's well worth devoting your time to.


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