In “Not Here to Be Loved,” the thoughtful but minimalist portrait of a 50-year-old process server and a 40-year-old high school counselor, still waters run so deep that the human surfaces seem bone-dry. Top-notch character thesps deliver unerring authenticity in a carefully observed mosaic of tentative emotions and regrettable outbursts. Small, affecting pic — which opens in Gaul Oct. 12 after its San Sebastian preem — is a lateral move for helmer/co-scripter Stephane Brize, whose 1999 debut “Le Bleu des villes” showed true originality.
Weary and seemingly humorless Jean-Claude Delsart (Patrick Chesnais) is a “hussier de justice” — a cheerless profession that consists of delivering the paperwork that precedes evictions, property seizures and the like. He took over the family business from his father (stupendous vet Georges Wilson), an ogre-like, impossible-to-please widower who lives in a retirement home.
The dance studio across from Jean-Claude’s spartan office specializes in tango lessons. At a bleak crossroads in his dour life, Jean-Claude decides to give it a try.
Another student, Francoise (Anne Consigny), approaches him after class. It turns out Jean-Claude’s mother babysat for her as a child. She’s taking dance lessons in preparation for her wedding to Thierry (Lionel Abelanski), a shleppy schoolteacher who has taken time off to write a book — a project that’s going badly after seven months.
Jean-Claude and Francoise have nothing obvious in common except an inchoate longing for something more. Unable to pop the cork on bottled-up feelings, they send mixed signals to themselves and each other.
The tango is almost too strong a metaphor, and it threatens to capsize pic’s delicate balance. But the score’s emotive pizzazz carries the day in this delicate, melancholy, ultimately encouraging tale.