Taboos are shattered in Valérie Donzelli’s Marguerite & Julien, a brother-sister romance set in seventeenth century France, despite some intentional anachronisms. As children, Marguerite and Julien have a close relationship and a priest suggests separating them. When Julien (Jérémie Elkaïm) returns from business school, he finds Marguerite (Anaïs Demoustier) unhappily engaged; they surreptitiously rekindle their romance, setting off intrigue. Despite the occasional tableau vivant, Donzelli keeps the pace brisk. DP Céline Bozon creates a beautiful look for the film. The score is rich, moving, and, at times, sublime. Marguerite & Julien finds characters in a familiar narrative, but with an incesticious twist that makes trite situations fresh and stirring. As it ought to, the soapy, melodramatic elements and sheer outlandishness of the premise sometimes prompt laughs. But that does not diminish the movie; rather, it shows an aversion for solemnity and self-importance that too many films are guilty of. Donzelli directs her actors well. Achieved through gestural precision, the chemistry between Elkaïm and Demoustier is palpable, evoking tenderness, longing, and desire.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White