28 sep 2021

“The Restless”, a paralyzing film about the couple’s decline

More than a drama about the hell of bipolarity,  Joaquim Lafosse’s latest film paints a picture of the couple’s reality. These tandems, which sooner or later are universal, are confronted with the same problem: decay.

Some films change the idea of an actor forever. This is the case of Uneasy, the latest feature film by Belgian director Joaquim Lafosse, which pulverizes, in barely two hours, the image of the funniest actress in France that has been built Over the years, with Instagram posts, magazine covers and pseudo-intimate television interviews at prime time, Leïla Bekhti. In this chronicle of a tortured family life, inspired by the life of the filmmaker who grew up between a bipolar father and a mother on the verge of breaking up, the eternal good friend of All That Glitters (2010) blossoms in a completely different register. That of tenderness and heartbreak, of torment and complacency, of wound and (attempt to) heal… Without ever falling into sensationalism. For the author of The Economics of the Couple (2016), the actress plays a woman in love but overwhelmed, who ends up suffering from psychosis as she dreads her husband’s hyperactivity and dementia attacks. The latter is played by an unrecognizable Damien Bonnard, who transcends his talent to the point of overwhelming a stunned and haggard spectator. Faced with the character’s mishmash of moods – between exaltation, excess of madness, extreme sweetness and attempts at seduction – this same spectator, who probably thought he knew everything about a good performance, suddenly realizes that in fact no,  he didn’t really know it until now.


However, it was easy to doubt the compatibility of the Leïla Bekhti/Damien Bonnard tandem, as the two Frenchmen have filmographies that are completely opposed. She is rather used to mainstream comedies – including We York, the flame, the deep end –, and he had never really landed a major role until the Miserable, in 2019. The two actors nevertheless see themselves reunited as naturally as possible, in a film materializing the vice that has become love that is supposed to unite two people for life, the same vice that breaks suddenly to leave them there, wandering, in an immense villa, as big as the gaping hole that forms in their heart. Both have transformed for their roles – she has gained fifteen kilos, he may have gained more – but Watching them act, it’s as if they were interpreting, in this thriller-like arthouse film, the score of their lives: while their characters are called Leïla and Damien, the young actor chosen to play their son could really be theirs, making the viewer doubt the boundaries between reality and fiction. Was Joaquim Lafosse purely inspired by his childhood or is there, in Les Intranquilles, a piece of the life (and desires) of each of his performers? We won’t know any more, especially since we brutally interfere – through a scene where the father abandons his ten-year-old son on a boat, in the middle of the sea, and orders him to bring the machine back to shore – in the rather desirable life of a couple for whom everything succeeds. Where Damien is a painter whose only concern is to return on time the paintings that his gallery owner asks him for for a major exhibition, Leïla restores beautiful antique furniture at home and takes care of their little boy. But from the outset, the message is clear: this opulence and abundance of love will not be enough for the family to fight Damien’s illness and even more, to find its balance. Because more than a drama about the hell of bipolarity – the disease is only clearly evoked at the end – The Restless paints a picture of the reality of the couple. These tandems, which sooner or later are universal, are confronted with the same problem: decay.



The Restless (
2021), by Joaquim Lafosse, in theaters.