This review was updated on July 25, 2003 at 12:06 p.m.
A restrained, sentimental drama in which a Parisian theater director and a museum guide enter an accelerated romance, “Act Natural” is a solid and touching first film marbled with humor. Multi-hyphenate Pierre Olivier’s bittersweet contempo tale shared the top prize at the Avignon festival (as best French film), as well as taking a screenwriting award. It previously won the audience award at the Paris Film Festival. French-lingo outlets should bite, and continued fest play looks like a given.
Thomas (Olivier) directs foreign plays in translation at small theaters. When Alix (Alice Carel) attends an opening night, their carnal connection is immediate. However, very early in the relationship, Thomas overhears Alix on the phone telling her mother that her late dad’s hereditary illness has struck her, too. Thomas’ solution is to cast Alix — who has never acted — in his next production. Caught up in the intensity of rehearsals, Alix remains unaware that Thomas knows her health is in jeopardy. The dynamics of being in love and letting life and work take their course are painted with sure, sensitive strokes. Pic sidesteps the maudlin; lensing is unfussy, perfs are quite fine.