“To joy”, on Arte.tv: chronicle of a love at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic

In a country ravaged by a plague which forced everyone to remain cloistered, a young woman opened her door to a stranger. As death crept into every interstice of life, they loved each other. To Joy , the beautiful film by Jérôme Bonnell, is a period film – from spring 2020 – which turns this tragedy from which we have barely emerged into an elsewhere whose strangeness makes it almost (and everything is in the “almost” ) certain which just yesterday was impossible.

The grace of the faces and bodies of these lovers of the Covid-19 pandemic, the elegance of the staging make A la joie an intense and sweet moment, which looks both desire and pain in the face.

Véra (Amel Charif) begins her career as a lawyer in Montpellier (for the moment, she pleads with the industrial tribunal), when confinement blocks her in Paris. Even in this seemingly planned prelude, Jérôme Bonnell, also a screenwriter, injects a dose of freedom. If she had put a little effort into it, Véra could have taken the last train to confine herself with her fiancé; she prefers to sink into the universal floating of the moment to stay in a friend’s apartment, where she receives a visit from a neighbor. Sam (Pablo Pauly) is very talkative, rather funny, a little invasive.

Reign of desire

At the same time, young people are learning about confinement, the rituals of which are reconstituted before our eyes, like very old memories. The queue in front of the supermarket, the introduction to wearing a mask, the quest for hydroalcoholic gel… the acquisition of mastery of this new daily life, made of unprecedented constraints, in fact serves as the key to the fields for the lovers.

This paradox gives Jérôme Bonnell’s film an impulse that propels it towards the realization of all wishes, since, in reality, there is only one that really matters: that of staying together, far from the world. This celebration of the meeting of bodies – from social distancing to fusion – is ordered with an elegance which allows it to avoid all the pitfalls that lie in wait when filming love. What Jérôme Bonnell, Amel Charif and Pablo Pauly show on screen is crystal clear: the reign of desire.

Successive shocks

And then, one evening when they are applauding on the balcony, around 8 p.m., Sam tells Véra that joy matters more to him than happiness. What could be just a sophisticated version of a wafer or fortune cookie proverb turns out to be the first omen of disasters to come.

Without losing his elegance, the filmmaker stages the descent, on the other side of the summit. It’s impossible to detail it here without spoiling the successive shocks that reality brings to the budding love between Sam and Véra. Let’s just say that this second part of To Joy is as hard on lovers as the pandemic was on the country, and that the almost nostalgic evocation of the year 2020 gives way to a look of dismay at the magnitude of the disaster. .

A filmmaker fascinated by the distances that separate beings, by the moments that allow them to be crossed, Jérôme Bonnell finds in confinement the ideal space to express the quintessence of his way. He found in Pablo Pauly, charming, fragile, and in Amel Charif, of almost imperial elegance, the ideal interpreters for this chronicle of love in the time of the pandemic.


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