“Eager Bodies” is a sober, convincing but slightly underwhelming look at the suddenly complex love life of young woman battling cancer. Intense three-hander marks the screen debut of 19-year-old Laura Smet, daughter of Gallic rock icon Johnny Hallyday and vet thesp Nathalie Baye. Lensed in thoughtfully composed widescreen DV, pic melds the impatience of youth, the stress of serious illness and the steam valve of sex into a near-voyeuristic, character-driven package. Fest play looks in order.
Pic, highly praised by local crix on release in Gaul April 23, is the first feature by Xavier Giannoli, whose memorable short “The Interview,” about a French journalist attempting to interview Ava Gardner, won the Palme d’Or in 1998, and whose company produced Olivier Assayas’ “Demonlover.”
College student Paul (Nicolas Duvauchelle, in a 180 from his recent action role in “Snowboarder”) accompanies girlfriend Charlotte (Smet) to Paris for diagnosis and treatment of her advanced lung cancer. Charlotte begins chemotherapy, loses her hair and questions whether the balance of carnal activity and emotional support between her and Paul feels right.
Charlotte’s sexy cousin, Ninon (Marie Denarnaud), enters the picture to cheer Charlotte, but she and Paul indulge in recreational sex. Soul-searching about betrayal leads to an eventual three-way encounter and increasingly dire medical developments.
Low on dialogue and long on snappish behavior and well-staged caresses, pic is marbled with combative scenes without tipping over into the gratuitous histrionics that often accompany screen crises. Clinical sequences have the ring of truth.
Dialogue often sounds deliberately muddy, presumably to accentuate the difficulty of communicating when everything really is a matter of life or death.