Netflix UK film review: Mektoub, My Love
Ivan Radford | On 17, Feb 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast: Shaïn Boumedine, Salim Kechiouche, Ophélie Bau
Watch Mektoub, My Love online in the UK: Netflix UK / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Sky Store
How do you follow a three-hour drama filled with romance and sex? With another three-hour drama with romance and sex. That seems to be the level of thought that went into Abdellatif Kechiche’s latest, a belated follow-up to Blue Is the Warmest Colour that arrives six years after the director won the Palme d’Or, and feels like it goes on for twice that time.
The drama follows Amin (Shaïn Boumedine), a young man and a wannabe screenwriter, who returns from Paris to his home village in France. He’s there to figure out his next step in his life, to reconnect with his family and friends, and to soak up the sunlit days of youth. Also, he’s there to stare at women’s bodies. A lot. That, at least, is how Kechiche spends his free-flowing epic, never missing an opportunity to leer, gawp at or ogle his cast members.
It’s a quality that viewers found in Warmest Colour, particularly its sex scenes, but that movie also showcased two rounded, nuanced female characters, immersing us in a naturalistic portrayal of a painful relationship. Its slow, achingly drawn out duration fed into that sense of heartbreak. Mektoub, on the other hand, lacks that sense of character, depth and emotion. Based on François Bégaudeau’s 2012 novel, La Blessure, la Vraie, it follows Amin as he hooks up with his womanising cousin, Tony (Salim Kechiouche), who’s having an affair with Ophelie (Ophélie Bau), the object of Amin’s long-held, unspoken affection – we meet, them, tellingly, as they’re in the middle of the carnal act, with Amin peeping through the bedroom window. Covering up that affair is the rationale for Tony’s lothario lifestyle during this heated 90s summer, bringing Amin into contact with tourists Charlotte (Alexia Chardard) and Céline (Lou Luttiau).
The cast are impressive, conveying a subtle sense of shifting dynamics in the messy web of bonds and desires that gradually expands over the 180 minutes. But Kechiche isn’t as interested in navigating that as he is content to float through it without any sense of direction. The result is a protagonist who, despite time with his engaging family, never becomes an engaging figure, and a story that never sparks into life; every time there’s a threat of narrative momentum, the whole thing pauses to eye up another bikini-clad body. There’s a candid nature to the director’s filmmaking that remains impressive – a cutaway to a lamb giving birth essentially in real-time is unlike anything else you’ve seen in a movie this year – but as things devolve into a lengthy nightclub scene with writhing, dancing bodies and a camera that drifts ever lower, Mektoub feels more about the voyeur than the objects of his gaze.
Mektoub, My Love is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.