As If Nothing Happened (Comme Si de Rien N'etait)

Laura Clifford 
 As If Nothing Happened
Robin Clifford 
Theater director Thomas (writer/director Pierre-Olivier Mornas) meets museum tour guide Alix (Alice Carel) and it is love at first sight.  With their relationship still in the initial head-over-heels stage, Thomas overhears Alix discussing her dire prognosis and her desire to leave him before causing undo pain.  Holding her secret to himself, Thomas ingeniously convinces Alix to try out for his new play and art mirrors life in "As If Nothing Happened."


This charmingly told love story begins with moments of sparkling comedy, but quickly turns into an old fashioned weepie.  Pierre-Olivier Mornas isn't exactly subtle with his symbolic imagery and double entendres, but his direction of the actors and his chemistry with costar Carel keeps his material emotionally true.

After auditioning many, Thomas convinces his producer Edouard (Rufus, the father in "Amelie") that Alix can handle the last of the play's four roles, that of an unwed woman coming to terms with keeping her baby.  The stage manager accommodates Alix's need for an 11 a.m. start time, which Thomas knows is due to her radiotherapy treatments. The untried Alix becomes a marvel, speaking lines about her unborn child which could have been written for Thomas himself, but after a triumphant opening night, Alix has a seizure and enters the hospital for the last time.

In addition to a beautiful love story, Mornas delights in recreating his own theater experience for the big screen.  Actors bicker and fall in love.  The esteemed theater director, producer Edouard turns out to be an unconfident ham.  We see characters develop along with the set, all while Thomas watches, encourages and directs from behind the stage lights.  A much needed rest for the working troupe becomes a reason to visit Alix's mother, Jeanne (Sophie Barjac), in the country and Mornas continues his life/art theme when the play's doctor, Edouard, is talked into assisting with the birth of a foal.  Painting and sculpture join the theatrical arts as elements of Thomas and Alix's life together. Comedic imagery, such as the actors cars dawdling along a country road behind a tractor, is simple but effective.  A funny bit about his jogging friend's uneven armpit odor is used to set up a great visual payoff.

Light is used to foreshadow Alix's fate. She first appears in stage light, has an acting breakthrough in a spotlight, runs towards the sunset in a child's game to catch the sun.   Cinematographer Olivier Chambon is adept at back lighting Carel's curly blond hair as a nimbus illuminating her face.

Mornas and Carel are tremendously appealing and have wonderful chemistry together.  They create a playful, somewhat saucy relationship, which deepens into passion.  Barjac does a nice job representing the reality outside of the fantastical theater world, while the players both on and behind the stage create a sense of community.

"As If Nothing Happened" is a bittersweet mix of romantic comedy and three-hanky chick flick that never feels manufactured or manipulative.


This recent audience favorite at the Boston Museum of Fine Art's 2004 French film festival is returning for a ten show engagement beginning 12/16/2004.  Check for days and times.

Thomas (Pierre Olivier Mornas, the film’s writer/director/star) is a theater director specializing in a devotion to his leading ladies. While staging his latest production he meets Alix (Alice Karel), a stunning young museum guide whom he overheard is soon to be very ill and a friend of a friend of Thomas. Captivated and immediately smitten, he brazenly casts the untried new talent in the lead of his play in “As If Nothing Happened.”

Mornas creates a sweetly told love story set in the Paris theater as Thomas struggles through making repairs, casting the roles and setting his creation into motion. Alix visits the set during yet another crisis and he is immediately taken with her immediate charm. He has just one role left to fill and has gotten nowhere with the auditions. Alix is so honest and spontaneous, and knowing of her illness, he has the idea that she might just be right for his play’s lead.

Alix is perfect in her new role but, known to few besides Thomas, she has a deep, dark secret – she has been diagnosed with a brain disease inherited from her father. Fortunately, this tragic element is handled nicely without getting overtly sappy. As portrayed by Alice Karel, Alix is a strong personality who weathers the injustices of life with an aplomb that makes the character eminently likable. Thomas, with his Brian Glazer-like mop of spiky hair, is sympathetic in the extreme with his love for his thespians (especially the ladies) and his love of theater. There is a nice chemistry between Thomas and Alix that transcends the film’s soap sudser qualities.

As If Nothing Happened” gives us a tiny look into French theater in a soap opera setting that is light and airy despite its tragic trappings. Mornas lovingly crafts a story that will cause hankies to be drawn and a good weep is in store. I give it a B-.

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