Living on Love Alone

The French title of Isabelle Czajka's impressive second feature film, translated as “living on love and fresh water,” is a common French saying that evokes the idea is that love-and a little water-is all you need to survive. The romantic idealism of that timeworn message gets a satirical re-assessment in this complexly woven story about a twenty-three-year-old French woman trying to make it on her own. Julie is pretty, tough, independent, and yet floundering in the cold, hard business world of Paris. Her attempts to keep a job fail, and we come to believe there is something reckless about Julie, and something sad about the way she seems to give up believing in anything. The love story that eventually develops over half way into the film is part of that recklessness, but by then, we understand why Julie would choose to follow a charming young man of dubious employment to the south of France. It is the land of Pierrot le Fou after all, and the gloomy predicament of a lonely, disaffected young woman suddenly transforms itself into the exciting misadventures of a girl, a guy, and a gun. Anais Demoustier, who also starred in Czajka's debut feature L'année suivante, is extraordinary as Julie. She conveys a complicated mixture of vulnerability and hardened cynicism, of passivity and aggressiveness, which makes the film all the more intriguing in its exploration of the nature of love and power. Is she Anna Karina, or Jean Seberg? Is Living on Love Alone a cautionary tale, or a tragic love story? Its ambiguous ending only begs the question further; it will leave you overwhelmed.

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