Love Like Poison (Un poison violent) review

Stories about growing up are in plentiful supply and why not? We all do it, to some degree or another, so there are elements which will inevitably ring true, no matter what the setting. The success or failure of such films therefore lie in the telling and this debut feature from Katell Quillévéré hits more often than it misses. Fourteen-year-old Anna (Augarde) comes home from boarding school to be with her mother Jeanne (Lio) and sick grandfather (Galabru). Her father has moved out, her confirmation at church is imminent and she is developing sexual feelings for her friend Pierre (Leboulanger-Gourvil).

The focus on religion in this small Breton village provides the film with a major character in itself. Instrumental in driving Anna’s parents apart, it also troubles her mother and youthful local priest for whom she yearns. Both of them express doubts about their faith and what it means leaving Anna pondering her own feelings towards religion. Meanwhile, her burgeoning sexuality is brought to the fore, not only by Pierre – who is your quintessential horny teenager, albeit a very polite one – but also by her rebellious, dying grandfather, who provides much of the film’s humour.

Clara Augarde excels as the shy, awkward Anna and reflects the alternately pretty and miserable Brittany scenery to perfection. Quillévéré handles the teen sexual awakening with sensitivity and poses some thought-provoking questions about the nature of religion from numerous perspectives without ever appearing judgmental. Love Like Poison is a necessarily quiet and reflective film, the slow pace of which may be off-putting to many. But it is well made, intelligent and gently moving, and as such deserves due recognition.

Love Like Poison at IMDb

Justin Bateman is a Screenjabber contributor

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