A painter, Damien (Damien Bonnard, who appeared in “Les Misérables”), leads a comfortable existence with his wife, Leïla (Leïla Bekhti), who restores antiques, and their young boy. While on vacation, Damien acts oddly, he’s spastic, hungry, sleepless, ready for anything and everything without seeming completely delusional.
Leïla’s fallen asleep on the beach. Damien and his son take the boat out. Suddenly, he jumps overboard and decides to swim all the way to the shore. He tells his son, who’s barely ten, to drive the boat back.
Damien’s sense of initiative may be reckless but little attention is paid to this, even though this the first warning sign of looming chaos. Back at the villa, Damien gets on his bike, goes shopping, cooks, he can’t keep still. Leïla tries to slow him down, in vain.
One scene that struck me was when he threw his friends’ daughter into the pool, a strange, psychotic whim—it looked anomalous: you don’t do it like that. This, the boat incident earlier, something’s amiss. An artist in demand, in a later scene Damian is painting while in a state of increasing exhilaration.
Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse chose to describe bipolar disorder in “Les Intranquilles,” drawing inspiration from personal memories because, as he tells it, his father, a photographer, suffered from the same condition, bouts of euphoria following periods of inertia, total loss of control followed by a lithium-induced void. No particular reason or context is given here to explain Damien’s situation other than the pressure to produce more work that his gallery owner applies to him in the run-up to a a major exhibition.
Even love cannot deflect the diffuse and urgent energy that radiates out of Damien’s manic surges. Leïla is increasingly weary, the pressure on family ties probably being the central subject of the film. One of my favorite films from the last Cannes Festival.