The name of Patrice Chéreau does not mean much to international audiences, perhaps better known outside France for La Reine Margot with Isabelle Adjani but he was also a man of the stage and much beloved in his country for his important work in both disciplines. Actor/director Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi was a student at his acting school Les Amandiers and those years she spent with him are the subject of her new film called after that film school.There is charming exuberance to the early scenes of Les Amandiers. The audition scenes as they all compete for a coveted place in this prestigious school are so full of youthful energy and amusing as various theatre kids overact, overreact but also genuinely give it all and show some early promise of talents. The film is set in the early '90s and the director wonderfully recreates this era and the very specific youth of Paris back then, a time that has still not been represented in films much, coming after the crushing '80s and their all never-ending nostalgia. Friendships are rapidly made, dreams are broken... without ever doing it and thanks to the talent of her young cast, all these moments come to life with enthusiasm and humour.
Sadly, it call comes crashing down after its promising opening. Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi (who has acted for Patrice Chéreau in the insufferable Ceux Qui M'aiment Prendront le Train (1998) has a certain tendency to descend into histrionics with her acting and her direction quickly descends into that same tendency. What was originally charming becomes quickly tiresome as the story focuses more on the doomed romance between Stella (Nadia Tereskiewicz) and Etienne (Sofiane Bennacer), the latter a talented but unhinged and troubled young man too easily drawn to excesses. The fault lies both with the script and Sofiane Bennacer but as a possible autobiographical and cathartic plot development, it becomes difficult to care about such an uninteresting characters among all the shouting, hysteria and narcissism.
It is a shame because there is some solid work from the supporting cast: as the man himself Patrice Chéreau, Louis Garrel shows a different facet of his talent, as a charismatic and passionate artist and Clara Brétheau is excellent, so full of sparks and enthusiasm.
Insufferable and indulgent despite a promising start, Les Amandiers is not on to win Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi some new fans of her very particular talent.
Review by Laurent De Alberti
Official Selection, In Competition
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Les Amandiers. France 2022. Directed by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. Starring Nadia Tereskiewicz, Louis Garrel...