Drawing on a lithe, pastel-hued palette and delicate, unobtrusive camerawork, Desplechin movingly portrays the contrasting facets of her character in two sensuous moments driven by Cotillard’s expressive silent performance: Carlotta weeping under the shower in a kind of spiritual cleansing and provocatively dancing to Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. . . . At once opposite and complementary, these scenes epitomize the film’s theme of self-reinvention through embracing the moment.
The film is flush with stylistic elegance and brio. Desplechin manages each fraying narrative thread through grounding innovation and intimacy. Just when the film seems to be getting away from him, it slows and he somehow finds a new way to film two lovers stripping each other's clothes off.
It feels more substantial and immersive than the original cut. Scenes that have been restored (including some extra time at a beach house with Ismael, Sylvia, and the intruding Carlotta, as well as a strange diversion involving Ismael's relationship to his real brother) tend to deepen our engagement with these characters' turbulent emotional experiences—and by extension, our connection to the film's commitment to reframing defiant inhibition as a kind of tragic form of compensation.