Poissonsexe is Often an Uncomfortable Watch
Festival du Nouveau Cinema 2020
Set in a not-too-distant future where climate change and pollution have left the seas largely empty of life, Olivier Babinet’s Poissonsexe uses an all-too-realistic ecological catastrophe as the backdrop for an offbeat romantic comedy, a tale of unlikely love in the face of an uncertain future. This is a fine idea on paper, but Babinet’s film doesn’t do much with the ecological aspect or indeed the romantic aspect, turning in a twee rom-com that uses ecological collapse as little more than set dressing for a mostly conventional romance. Despite some offbeat moments, it offers very little in the way of actual originality, and the casting of the central duo makes the most remarkable thing about the movie just how uncomfortable it often is.
Set in a small seaside town, the film follows Gustave Kerven’s Daniel as he searches for love at the time that he and a team of biologists are desperately trying to convince the last of the world’s fish get down to business themselves. Daniel strikes up a fledgling romance with India Hair’s Lucie, a local shop clerk, but things threaten to break down when their goals and desires for the future clash.
As a romance film, Poissonsexe would be more or less fine if not for one crucial flaw: the very obvious age gap between Kerven (57) and Hair (33), a gap the film seems to try and emphasize with Daniel’s bushy gray beard and Lucie’s trendy pink hair and overalls. The age gap is never remarked upon, and it’s never brought up by anyone that the pair look more like father and daughter than a couple. Romantic tension between the two never fails to feel incredibly uncomfortable, especially if you’re aware of the long history of male romantic leads being paired up with women many years their junior. This problem might have been at least somewhat mitigated if the film had anything else to offer besides an offbeat sensibility and the superficial trappings of science fiction and ecological messaging. While potentially interesting, even these feel tacked on and shallow, adding nothing to the film’s actual text.
- Thomas OConnor
The (almost entirely) digital 2020 edition of Festival du Nouveau Cinema runs from Oct. 7 to Oct. 31. Visit the official website for more information.