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A Brief Encounter With a Stranger on a Train

'Just a Sigh' breathes heavily, but quietly

May 27, 2014, 12:00 am

Alix (Emmanuelle Devos), a Parisian actor working in Calais, and Doug (Gabriel Byrne), make their way from Calais back to Paris via train. Each is going through existential crises. Alix is broke, her relationship with her boyfriend of eight years seems strained and she’s eight weeks pregnant. Doug is traveling to a funeral for an old friend. The death has hit him hard.

They keep looking at each other, and upon arriving Doug asks her for directions. She doesn’t know exactly, but a busybody nearby does, and Doug and Alix part ways.

Except they don’t, because we know what happens with strangers on trains, right? Either it’s romance (Brief Encounter; Before Sunrise) or murder (Strangers on a Train; Throw Momma from the Train).

The film’s French title—Le temps de l'aventure, which translates roughly to “The time for adventure”—is better, because “just a sigh” only makes up part of the story. For Doug, there’s just the sigh of romance. For Alix, there’s a missed lunch and an angry sister and financial troubles and more.

There’s a sustained wistful feel throughout, even if some it is supplied by a pushy but lovely score. Jérôme Bonnell’s movie isn’t great—time is pretty elastic here—but it’s satisfying in its own quiet way.

Directed by Jérôme Bonnell
With Devos and Byrne
The Screen
105 min.


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