Someone, Somewhere (Deux moi)

France (2019) Dir. Cédric Klapisch

So near yet so far. It is amazing what we look for in life might be right under our noses but for whatever reason we are unable to see it. Be it circumstances or fate, we carry on looking far and wide for a solution to a problem, or something a little more personal like love or companionship, when we really don’t need to.

In Paris, thirty-something Rémy (François Civil) works in a warehouse whilst his love life is non-existent. Feeling down and stressed, he collapses on a tube train and is diagnosed with depression, and referred to a psychotherapist J.B. Meyer (François Berléand). Rémy visit his parents in the country for Christmas long with his brothers and sister, but none of them shows him any sympathy.

Meanwhile, a few feet away in the next building from Rémy is Mélanie (Ana Girardot), a cancer research scientist also unlucky in love, still distraught over her last relationship ending. She also consults a psychotherapist (Camille Cottin) whilst her friends encourage Mélanie to sign up to Tinder and find a date, yet she remains unfulfilled. Both are told by their shrinks they have the right to be happy but can they find out how?

Apparently, dating in the modern world is easy, as one of Mélanie’s friends opines whilst trawling through the profiles of available men on her phone app, but Cédric Klapisch and co-writer Santiago Amigorena seem to disagree. Someone, Somewhere proffers the idea that getting out an actually talking to people in person is the best way to meet them, get to know them, and then let the rest work it out from there, if it is meant to be.

This last part is most crucial, as our hapless would-be romantics suffer their fair share of dating disasters in their search for happiness, though the focus also looks at the inner issues that are holding them back. Klapisch may imply phone app dating is more for one night stands than lasting relationships and wags a disapproving finger at it, but does so with wry intent rather than flat out scorn, for this is just one part of the story being told here.

Within the milieu of “will they, won’t they?” tropes in romantic cinema, Klapisch adds a fresh take on the near misses of the two lonely ships passing each other in the night; they share the same journey to work, walk alongside each other in the street, shop at the same ethnic supermarket, and at one point stand right next to each other yet never seem to be aware of the other’s presence at all.

Klapisch spends a lot of the time comparing and contrasting the two situations – Rémy has trouble sleeping whilst Mélanie could sleep for France; Mélanie does okay with one-night stands via her phone app, unlike Rémy with no online presence, until he opens a Facebook account and the only person he attracts is an annoying schoolmate he barely remembers.

Of the two, Rémy has the deepest psychological scars that need healing, although both he and Mélanie share an avoidance of staying in touch with their parents. We never meet Mélanie’s family beyond her sister Capucine (Rebecca Marder) who pleads with Mélanie to contact their mother. Rémy’s family call him “the Parisian” since he moved away from their country town, mocking him for being an urbanite. Hardly surprising then that when Rémy discusses his issues, his parents (Patrick d’Assumçao and Marie Bunel) reel from the idea their son could be mad.

Even the therapy sessions are a tale of two sides – Meyer is counting the days until his retirement and reeling off standard, but ultimately helpful responses to Rémy’s concerns in his spartan office, whilst Mélanie enjoys a comfortable couch in a new age set-up to the tune of profound pearls of insightful wisdom. There is the age difference between the therapists too, representing the modern vs. traditional approaches to their work, but the proof is in the pudding of how their clients fare.

Phone apps and social media are not the only targets of Kaplisch, being a little more subtle with his digs at the rise of faceless corporate online retailers. Along with Rémy being made redundant and replaced by robots (leading to an amusing dream sequence), a central hub shared by Rémy and Mélanie is the niche store owned by Mansour (Simon Abkarian).

The cheery proprietor offers bespoke recommendations to all his customers – usually the most expensive – that ensure they return for more. Mansour is in fact the missing piece of the puzzle neither one of the protagonists knew they needed, serving as a catalyst for some steps forward they take that no amount of therapy sessions could help with. The great thing is in how Kaplisch plays it like it is obvious something will happen yet leaves plenty of doubt of there being any inevitability to it at all.

Despite pushing 60, Kaplisch manages to tap into the angst and despair of Millennials in a fast moving urban landscape where social pressures are at an all time high, making Rémy and Mélanie relatable to audiences of all ages who have struggled to find love. The script thoughtfully examines the generation gap attitudes across the board yet settles for a kind of Ockham’s razor conclusion of the simplest solution being the right one.

François Civil and Ana Girardot both possess that magical Gallic quality of being rather photogenic yet also come across as non-descript faces in crowd, helping greatly in that connection with the audience. Civil has a lot more to work with than Girardot on the emotional front, but her journey is slightly different after all.

Someone, Somewhere is a “love in the modern era” romantic tale without the mawkish melodrama or excessive affectation to dive it off course from its narrative purpose. It does a lot by the book but the fresh twists make for a more resonant and satisfying experience.