Seasoned low-budget filmmaker Rene Feret offers up a deadpan, periodically moving portrait of one young couple’s battle with Hodgkin’s disease in “Like a Star Shining in the Night.” Part of a recent wave of French terminal-illness pics, this one is similar to Xavier Giannoli’s “Eager Bodies” and Francois Ozon’s “Time to Leave,” though it’s more stripped down — both stylistically and literally, as actress Salome Stevenin is often fully nude onscreen. Despite some moments that play like an “After School Special,” the subject matter and performances are potent enough to merit fest life after limited local release.
When twentysomething Anne (Stevenin) learns her charmer fiance Marc (Nicolas Giraud) is diagnosed with a ferocious strain of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, she decides to stick with him as he fights a losing battle. Stage-by-stage narrative follows Marc through intensive surgery, physical therapy and chemotherapy, while the two maintain their loving relationship, both emotionally and sexually.
Script is based on the true story of Feret’s niece, and the writer-director maintains an intimate tone throughout the narrative, using closeups and two-shots to capture the action. Pic was shot on video and is set predominantly indoors.
Things get particularly intimate whenever Feret reveals how the couple continue to copulate despite Marc’s failing health. There’s plenty of sweaty nudity, presented in a sweet and unadorned manner.
Other sequences, especially conversations between the couple or between Anne and her friends and family, are often awkward or overly sentimental. The two youngsters declaim their unfettered love for one another just a few too many times, and appear more as projections of the filmmaker’s ideals than as viable human beings.
Rising talent Stevenin (daughter of thesp Jean-Francois Stevenin, who also plays her dad in the movie) already revealed her strong acting smarts and willingness to do risque scenes in 2005’s “Cold Showers.” She does much of the same here, although she looks too heavily made-up in certain scenes. Relative newcomer Giraud (“Taken”) is physically convincing as he portrays Marc’s slow debilitation.