Is there ever a circumstance where couples can open up their marriage, swap partners, and go on living a carefree life? Are we exhausted in the steady stream of films that inexplicably attempt to answer these questions? If you answered YES, and then NO, then Four Lovers is the latest film to arrive to tackle these seemingly relevant and important issues, commonplace in today’s marriages.
Except they are not commonplace at all. I have spent a number of years working in the area of Family Law and perhaps I am jaded, but a large number of people cheat on their spouses and in almost every instance where this has occurred, the other side had no idea whatsoever. I seem to encounter a couple of films a year, some I see and many others I skip, that deal with this topic of consensual third partners or open marriages. I am all for adults living the lives they choose, but after awhile, the prevalence of these films makes me wonder: Where does this happen? Do a lot of couples engage in this practice? Are we just trying to tailor to the whims of a curious and select audience?
In the French film Four Lovers, our latest polyamorous contestants compete for the love and affections of one another, while doubling down on the task of making the viewers care about the desires, urges, and problems their unquenchable wants bring out within them. One couple consists of Rachel (Marina Fois), a jewelry designer, and Franck (Roschdy Zem), a photographer with a penchant for erotic literature and art. When Rachel meets web designer Vincent (Nicolas Duvauchelle), who is brought in to help with her company’s website, she feels the embers and soon she and Franck and having dinner with Vincent and his wife, Teri (Elodie Bouchez).
Teri is a former gymnast who competed in the Olympics and soon after revealing this to the group, Rachel and Vincent clean up dinner and Teri and Franck share a kiss after Franck rubs Teri’s neck and shoulders. After everyone leaves for the night, Franck reveals the incident to Rachel, who, on another evening out, passionately kisses Vincent goodnight and the swapping commences. Rules are declared and then over time casually broken. When Vincent returns home and finds Franck and Teri asleep naked on a couch moved halfway across the room, Vincent shows momentary aggravation. However, since everyone here can have relations with two people, that aggravation dissipates…for awhile.
And on and on it goes. The constant sexual trysts, including one taking place amongst cut open bags of flour, are numbing and frequently less interesting and the characters have all the depth of those folks found in late night cable television. We may learn more back story and the film may not be exploitation per se, but there is really no point to any of this. The inevitability of these couples blindly fulfilling their fantasies, only to start to question what it is they are exactly doing with each other, is obvious and completely predictable. Save Elodie Bouchez’s performance, none of these characters are really all that interesting and I could not engage or relate to them in any way, shape, or form; nor understand the primal desires they bring out in each other.
Antony Cordier co-wrote and directed this film and his previous film, Cold Showers, told the story of three teenagers who work through their respective family dramas by…you guessed it…engaging in threesomes with one another. I do not know Antony Cordier obviously, but I sure do hope he works through his fantasies and finds the individuals who can make his cinematic dreams come true. Maybe then, he can get down to making movies that are steeped in some realm of reality.