Never Ever

Katherine Beaufort Sandrine Bonnaire

Katherine Beaufort Sandrine Bonnaire

Amanda Murray Jane March

Thomas Murray Charles Finch

Gerard Panier Jean Rochefort

Arthur Trevane James Fox

Roderick Julian Sands

With: Patrick Le Barz, Marc Estrada, Gillian Clarck, Yves Aprosio.

(English and French dialogue)

When the best performance in a picture comes from a thesp (Sandrine Bonnaire) who’s acting in a second language, you know you’re in trouble. At every other level, apart from some nice-looking photography of Paris, “Never Ever” is an embarrassingly klutzy romantic drama that should never ever have been let out of the lab. Pic’s title accurately describes B.O. chances in Anglo markets for this third feature by British director Charles Finch.

Finch (son of late actor Peter) plays Thomas Murray, a thirtyish Brit investment banker with a rocky marriage to aristo Amanda (Jane March), who moves to Paris to work in one of the operations of his father-in-law, Arthur Trevane (James Fox). On a country drive, he meets Katherine (Bonnaire), a hat designer, and before you can say “chapeau” she’s buying him some lovebirds in a cage, and the two head off to Nice for some serious entente cordiale.

Amanda, meanwhile, has decided to reconcile with Thomas and promptly slits her wrists when he tells her about Katherine. Understandably worried by this turn of events, Arthur begs Thomas to drop Katherine and fly off with Amanda to Hong Kong, where another job awaits him. The big question is, will Thomas choose love or money?

Aside from trying to gild a shake ‘n’ bake cross-channel romance with some laughable metaphysical musings, writer-director Finch (“Priceless Beauty,” “When Sleeping Dogs Lie”) sinks what’s left of the movie with a performance that’s so flat you could land a 747 on it. He’s almost equaled by March, who looks icily cool in designer duds but doesn’t bring an ounce of credibility to her role as the wife. For some reason, the two also communicate in some kind of sub-Pinteresque Morse code.

Bonnaire brings light and flavor to her role and scenes, and handles her dialogue as best as possible, but she’s basically paddling upstream. Veteran Gallic actor Jean Rochefort is in for some OK moments, and Julian Sands gets a couple of lines as a friend of Finch’s near the start.

Apart from some variable direct sound, technical credits are good, topped by Monty Rowan’s shapely lensing. Peter John Vettesse’s piano-and-orchestra score trowels on the romance at key points. Occasional French-dialogue scenes were unsubtitled on wet-from-lab print caught.

Never Ever

(U.S. - BRITISH)

Production: A Trimark Pictures release (in U.S.) of a Walkabout Mates production for Trimark Pictures. (International sales: Trimark, Santa Monica, Calif.) Produced by Karen Koch. Executive producer, Mark Amin. Co-producer, Phillip B. Goldfine. Directed, written by Charles Finch. Camera (color; prints by Metrocolor), Monty Rowan; editor, Chris Joyce; music, Peter John Vettesse; production design, Elli Griffiths; art direction, Debbie Wilson; costume design, Tanya Gill; sound (Dolby), Barry Reed, Ian Tapp; assistant director, Christophe Cheysson; casting, Celestia Fox (U.K.), Kate Dowd (Paris), Caroline Mazauric (Nice). Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 12, 1996. Running time: 110 MIN.

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