The character of Jeanne, handled in the first leg of Marina de Van’s film ‘Don’t Look Back’ by Sophie Marceau, is a loving wife, a doting mother, a successful author and when we meet the young woman she’s going completely out of her mind. She’s experiencing hallucinations, mostly involving a young girl with long curly hair running around Paris, she’s prone to fainting spells, she’s highly irritable and nothing around her seems to be as it should be.
These problems for Jeanne seem to begin with the woman finishing her first novel, her previous books being biographies, with this novel centering around her childhood, a childhood that she cannot remember before the age of eight. By all accounts this novel Jeanne has written is awful, a fact that only adds to her irritability.
Another thing that Jeanne is finding mighty irritating is that her husband Teo (Andrea Di Stefano) keeps moving the furniture in their house around, which is just one of many things getting on Jeanne’s last nerve. Or other things like Teo looking like somebody else. Or her kids completely changing in appearance. Or Jeanne herself gradually but completely changing in appearance. That’s not normal.
Somewhere in the midst of this physical change Sophie Marceau’s Jeanne hands the baton off to Monica Bellucci’s version of Jeanne who wants to get to the bottom of why she seems to being going completely mad. The new look Teo (Thierry Neuvic) just wants his wife well, the new look children want their mother back and both of Jeanne’s mothers, old and new are worried sick.
Jeanne doesn’t know much about what’s going on inside her head but she knows where she needs to go to get some answers, and that’s on the tram to a small town in Italy where it will all become crystal clear. Not really, but for arguments sake let’s pretend this is the case.
‘Don’t Look Back’ started out just swell. This initial success was helped along by a slick and exciting look, an interesting premise and not to mention the presence of an extremely talented actress who also has the added benefit of being one the
most beautiful women on the planet earth. The way that de Van set up her movie, at least from the start, felt pitch perfect as we traveled along side Jeanne #1 trying to figure out what exactly was causing her affliction, and this early part of the film was intriguing in addition to being engaging.
Unfortunately the narrative didn’t have the strength to sustain this intrigue. Long before Sophie Marceau handed this movie off to another talented, insanely beautiful actress in Monica Bellucci, I had personally begun to lose interest in Jeanne’s plight, as this movie was becoming more and more muddled, giving me very little in the way of clues or hints that could assist me into at least forming some kind of rational, or irrational opinion for that matter into what is going on, and would’ve gone a long way in keeping me interested in discovering whatever it was going on. Watching a woman whose face was half Monica Bellucci and half Sophie Marceau was mighty weird, and it was an impressive visual effect, but by the time this happened so many strange things were happening in this movie, with none of these strange things making any kind of sense, these things began to lose their impact.
Eventually we are given an explanation, more or less, on why these things are happening to Jeanne and this explanation does tell us the ‘why’ of what we are seeing, at least at the most basic level of the mystery. But because there are so many odd things that were going on in the life of both Jeanne’s before we got this sudden explanation, this explanation does nothing to clarify a good 85 percent of the strangeness that was going on for our main character. Early in the film Jeanne’s publisher criticizes her novel for being heavy on detail but light on emotion and substance. Of course this could be part of the filmmakers method of madness but this movie was similar. The path to Jeanne’s insanity was heavily detailed, but the reasons behind Jeanne’s path left much to be desired.
‘Don’t Look Back’ was a beautiful looking film starring a pair of beautiful actresses doing the best they could with what they were working with, but a muddled narrative ultimately made this movie a very unsatisfying cinematic experience for this movie watcher.