Nanou (1986)    1 Stars


Nanou (1986)
Nanou (1986)


Director: Conny Templeman

Cast: Imogen Stubbs, Jean-Philippe Écoffey, Christophe Lindon

Synopsis: During a study holiday in France, a girl meets the great love of her life, but the boy is involved in terrorist activities which put a serious strain on their relationship.




Probably the most intriguing thing about Conny Templeman’s malnourished love story is quite how a middle-class British girl receives a name like Nanou.   Her parents (Anna Cropper, Patrick O’Connell), whom we briefly meet when they visit their daughter in the French village in which she has made her home with sullen French boy, Luc (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), are the rigidly conventional type who would award female offspring a name like Lucy or Samantha.   Nanou is played by the sweet and wholesome Imogen Stubbs, a charming actress who never really clicked with cinema audiences.   There’s a waif-like vulnerability to her portrayal, and while she doesn’t exactly scream ‘victim’, Nanou has an innocence about her that is ripe for exploitation by anyone with an agenda.   It’s no great surprise, then, that she falls in with a secretive political activist while on a study holiday in France.

His name is Luc (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey), and he’s something of an enigma to both Nanou and the audience.   Like many men, he’s not great at expressing his feelings, and his moodiness tips over into physical violence on one occasion.   But he shows his love in other ways.   Despite his initial dismissal of them as the trappings of the bourgeoisie, he finds her an old overstuffed armchair and curtains for her from somewhere when she expresses a wish to make their decrepit flat cosy.   Nanou is an amateur photographer of some talent, and out of the blue, he presents her with a book on photography.   It’s not a lot of good to her because it’s a book for beginners and, even worse, it’s in Spanish, but the thought is there.   He even ‘proves’ his love through a petty act of juvenile defiance by drinking urine for a chamber pot – and I’m sure you’ll agree, you can’t get more romantic than that…

Not a lot happens in the film.   It’s a journey of discovery for young Nanou, but she’s not too quick on the uptake, and is a little too passive for comfort.   The passion in her relationship with Luc quickly fades, and most women would leave him when he steals her passport so that it can be doctored to provide fake ID for a political terrorist.   Luc disappears to attend mysterious meetings, and leaves packages in the flat which are collected by strangers.

Nanou’s persistence with the relationship is both puzzling and frustrating, and the urge to shake her by the shoulders is always there, which surely can’t have been Templeman’s intention.   Even the most emotionally immature of girls would surely grow tired of the humourless relationship and lack of attention.   But remain in the relationship she must if the movie’s episodic nature is ever to acquire some sense of direction.  It does, belatedly, in the final act, but by then it all feels a little pointless.

Stubbs makes an appealing heroine, though, and the film succeeds in showing how a decent person can drift into morally questionable situations without realising.   Ecoffey also does well in a largely ambiguous role, and Daniel Day-Lewis (A Room with a View, My Beautiful Laundrette), whose career was just beginning to take off at the time, briefly livens things up as a friend of Nanou’s who immediately understands the unhealthiness of her relationship with Luc but is unable to persuade her to leave.

Although the performances are sincere, the gloominess of Nanou’s relationship with Luc infuses the entire film with a kind of listlessness that is impossible to shake off, and is, in fact, intensified by the film’s murky palette (all dull greys and dingy greens).   Watching Nanou – if you can track it down, that is, because even with Daniel Day-Lewis in the cast it has fallen into relative obscurity – is a painless enough experience, but it has little of any worth to say and is woefully short on depth.

(Reviewed 16th January 2016)


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Daniel Day-Lewis in 'Nanou', 1986



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