The French title is a more practical L’Economie du Couple, as that’s what we’re dealing with in Joachim Lafosse’s tasteful yet shuddering look at the collapse of a marriage.
Berenice Bejo is very good as Marie, who’s constantly on edge in her lovely Brussels flat (a converted former workshop, with walled yard) because she’s got all the household chores to, pick up the kids, sort their homework all the while living with beardy hulk of a husband Boris (Cedric Kahn – whom you may remember from the serial killer film Roberto Succo many years back) who’s been consigned to the sofa during what is clearly becoming a messy break up.
Lafosse examines the minutiae of daily like with forensic, real time detail. This could be boring, I admit, but I felt he kept it all ticking along admirably, using the tight spaces of the flat to look at the pressures that have brought this once-ideal marriage to its knees.
Money is probably at the route of it – the couple level long-simmering resentments about child care, fair shares, parents, work. It’s all very tit-for-tat and you start thinking do I really need to go to the cinema for this when frankly one gets enough of it at home.
But Bejo is marvellous at stabbing looks. Even his texting annoys her, the way he eats, walks, stands, takes food from the fridge, his bloody socks – everything she used to love, she now hates.
There’s a wonderful scene, the dinner party from hell, where she’s got friends round and he comes home, a little drunk, and joins in the dinner, in their lovely courtyard, with their lovely cheese plate and wine. It’s awful, just awful and you want it to stop, but the film lets it play out until you want to run screaming.
The last act gets a bit TV drama melodramatic with a plot lurch that’s more Casualty than it need be and actually takes us out of the proptery for the first time, which I felt was an error. But there’s another great scene, when the adorable little girls (so adorable, so French, so bourgeois) put on a song and get the family dancing again and we see everything, almost in silence, what love has been, where it’s gone and how it’s faded, right in the very heart of the place where it once blossomed, and the very place that ironically has choked it.
Partly excellent but ultimately depressing, particularly as the furniture’s so lovely.