Les Combattants

Les Combattants

Directed by Thomas Cailley

Rating: 3/5

With nine nominations at the 40th César Awards, Les Combattants’ arrival on the big screen was much anticipated. While the film offers the audience an unconventional and interesting romantic comedy, it often teeters on the line between mediocre and good. With some baffling cinematic choices by Thomas Cailley, Les Combattants is a film with potential, but with potential that is ultimately unreached.

Arnaud Labréde (Kévin Azaïs) is  a bored young man who works at his family’s carpentry business while trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. When Arnaud is paired up for a wrestling match with Madeleine Beaulieu (Adèle Haenel), a dour-looking woman who is in the midst of preparing for an unspecified apocalypse, he becomes smitten with her. He even follows her to military camp — where she intends to learn how to survive the end of the world. However, their time at military camp is different to how they had imagined, especially for Madeleine. Despite the shock of what military camp is really like, the pair’s relationship strengthens and their slow-burning romance is solidified as they navigate their way through camp together.

With direction from Thomas Cailley, both Haenel and Azaïs offer genuine performances that meticulously cultivate a chemistry that appears realistic and effortless. However, their quirky relationship — one that is refreshing and new — becomes tarnished with an unsatisfying finale, as Les Combattants pigeonholes itself into its genre by offering the audience disappointing and outdated tropes. Despite these tropes, Haenel’s character remains somewhat of an unknown in the world of romantic comedy, surprising the audience with a female lead who doesn’t have a predictable personality — the audience never knows what to expect from Madeleine, which is what makes her interesting and exciting to watch. In the process, however, Arnaud easily becomes overlooked, as his role seems to be the audience’s vessel to connect with Madeleine.

Although Cailley is unable to follow through with the film’s originality, for the most part Les Combattants provides the audience a different, surprising spin on romance.

This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2015.
Posted 1:28pm Sunday 16th August 2015 by Cameron Evans.