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Review: Unmade Beds (2009)

Directed by: Alexis dos Santos | 93 minutes | drama, , | Actors: , Déborah François, , Iddo Goldberg, Richard Lintern, Katia Winter, Leonardo Brzezicki, Alexis Dos Santos, , , , , , , Florencia Braier, Sinead Dosset , Rosie Edwards, , Kai Milsted, , , , Heather Wright, Sharon Young

‘Unmade Beds’, by the Argentinian filmmaker Alexis Dos Santos, is a type of film house film that has many relatives. It’s a film that feels casual, is melancholic, and, like many other art house films before it, focuses on relationships and itinerant youth looking for a guiding philosophy in their lives and a connection with like-minded people. They are often “free spirits” who spend the night in hostels and inns abroad and live in a diverse, international group. Action is often hard to find in these types of films, and the plot is also subordinate to things like atmosphere and characters. There is a lot of philosophy, while enjoying a cup of coffee and / or a cigarette, on major subjects such as Love, relationships, differences between men and women, finiteness, and (lost) youth. has made several films in this subgenre, Cédric Klapisch did it with his ‘L’auberge espagnol’ (with Audrey Tautou among others), Richard Linklater with ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset’, and Wong Kar-Wai with the atmospheric ‘In the Mood for Love’, where ‘Unmade Beds’ director Alexis Dos Santis claims to be inspired by. It is of course difficult to play new sounds in this genre, but as long as the atmosphere is attractive, the characters appear authentic, and the actors have a nice chemistry together, this should not be a problem. And fortunately these elements in ‘Unmade Beds’ are fine. and Wong Kar-Wai with the atmospheric ‘In the Mood for Love’, which inspired ‘Unmade Beds’ director Alexis Dos Santis. It is of course difficult to play new sounds in this genre, but as long as the atmosphere is attractive, the characters appear authentic, and the actors have a nice chemistry together, this should not be a problem. And fortunately these elements in ‘Unmade Beds’ are fine. and Wong Kar-Wai with the atmospheric ‘In the Mood for Love’, which inspired ‘Unmade Beds’ director Alexis Dos Santis. It is of course difficult to play new sounds in this genre, but as long as the atmosphere is attractive, the characters appear authentic, and the actors have a nice chemistry together, this should not be a problem. And fortunately these elements in ‘Unmade Beds’ are fine.

The biggest philosophical question in ‘Unmade Beds’ is formulated by Déborah François on the basis of a statement from her ex-boyfriend. He thought, she says, that people are always islands and can never quite get together in a relationship. It always remains 1 + 1. She herself hopes that it is possible that two people can really merge in a relationship and become one. A Jerry Maguire-esque “you complete me” thought, then. Hugh Grant struggled with the same dilemma in About a Boy. François, whose contemplative view is strongly reminiscent of Emmanuelle Devos, is always interesting to look at, although her philosophy leads to nothing in the end. It is never clear what she wants, where she wants to go, and whether she will get there. Still, taken in isolation, her scenes are often intriguing. Her relationship with “X-ray man” Michiel Huisman is quite interesting and the two players interact nicely with each other. The characters – just like the actors – have a casual relationship, guided by fate and impulsivity. They try to establish unconventional rules, perhaps to make their eventual togetherness and possible future together have more value. Some scenes are somewhat reminiscent of ‘Before Sunrise’, for example the playful way in which they meet (he determines the day, and she the place where they will meet again, but some things are left to chance); and the scene where they are going to do something she’s never done seems to be inspired by ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’.

The love scenes between Huisman and François are beautifully portrayed, just like those between Axl and his roommates. The storyline of Axl immediately carries a lot of drama – it is the traditional search for the father – but after a few tantalizing confrontations with his father, this also results in little. Perhaps this is precisely the purpose of Dos Santos: to keep the quests unfulfilled, the goals unclear, and the feelings indefinable. In itself it is commendable that he does not offer easy solutions and moreover the film relies very much on the atmosphere and emotions, blurred or not, and this crucial and successful element lifts the film above the middle bracket. The atmosphere in turn depends on convincing actors – who are present here – involved direction and intimate camera work – check – and appropriate music. Especially this music, consisting of alternative, Portishead-like rock music creates a bond with the images; It is precisely the combination of the hip, but at the same time somewhat woolly, strange music and the characters that go well with it, that make ‘Unmade Beds’ a viewing experience that will stay with you.

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