Simple Passion (18)

Simple Passion (18)

Director: Danielle Arbid

Runtime: 99 minutes

Cast: Laetitia Dosch, Sergei Polunin, Lou-Teymour Thion

Synopsis: A mother falls into an addictive relationship with a Russian diplomat, with whom she has nothing in common.


Lebanese/French film director, Danielle Arbid [In the Battlefields (2004), Un Homme Perdu (2007), Parisienne (2015)] has adapted French writer Annie Ernaux’s best-selling novel, Simple Passion, into a gripping erotic drama, which depicts an addictive relationship between a mysterious Russian diplomat and a mother, whose psyche is gradually dissolving as she becomes obsessed with a man with whom she shares nothing in common.

Hélène [Laetitia Dosch – Jeune Femme (2017)] is a single mother and university lecturer in a heated sexual relationship with the mysterious, heavily tattooed, married Russian embassy security guard, Alexandre [Sergei Polunin – Red Sparrow (2018), Murder on the Orient Express (2017)] Their arrangement is purely physical, yet her desire for him becomes an all-consuming obsession, as she loses her grip on the other aspects of her life, including her son, Paul (Lou-Teymour Thion).

The film features a number of highly charged sexual encounters – arranged at the married Alekandre’s convenience – and shows how he begins to dominate Hélène’s thoughts. For Hélène this is an experience that is as humiliating as it is exciting.

Their encounters are purely carnal, which seems to suit the glacial, Alexandre. But Hélène is looking for something more, and certainly an attempt to engage on a level beyond the physical. It is in this conflict of desires, lust and limerence that Arbid’s film resonates and highlights the gulf that can exist between sex and love.

It even draws out some dark humour as Hélène walks out of family and work obligations and shops for luxury La Perla lingerie and clothing to rush to furtive, intense yet loveless encounters with the uncommunicative Alexandre.

Simple Passion documents the desires and indignities of a human heart ensnared in an all-consuming passion. The film is very much Dosch’s show and she gives a tour-de-force performance of range and complexity.

Former ballet star Sergei Polunin is suitably intense and enigmatic and Lou-Teymour Thion understandably indignant as her neglected son – whom Hélène almost runs over in her car in her rush to get to an assignation.

The beautiful musical choices – which include Linda Vogel’s cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I Want You’, The Flying Pickets’ version of ‘Only You’, Leonard Cohen’s ‘The Stranger Song’ – add to this impressively nuanced film.

Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema

Images courtesy of Curzon Artificial Eye