Writing in the New Yorker, Pauline Kael said of the adaptation of John Fowles’ The Magus that it was the only movie in which on was likely ‘to see a copy of Emerson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity.’ So when a film announces itself as making extensive use of Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle’s 17th century book Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds, we know that the rom-com in question isn’t of the Adam Sandler variety. Director Oliver Krimpas and writer Jonathan Kiefer go high where many have gone low; this is more of the heady, intellectual, cosmic romance of Palm Springs, Clara or The One I Love, and the audience should self-select accordingly. This is a tiny film, but not an inconsequential one.
Maggie (Cara Theobald) meets Bernard (Gethin Anthony) at the gates of a French chateau in Normandy. He says he’s a scout for a film company seeking a location; she recounts the story of the building, and the famous book once written there. They flirt, although he has issues from the past to overcome, but as they zero in on many possible realties before them, Maggie and Bernard start to break down their inhibitions about who they could be to each other.
Around the Sun features two people and one location, but with good-looking leads and a photogenic location to unpack, Around the Sun is never boring. Reference points might range from Last Year in Marienbad to Rober Lepage’s Possible Worlds; we’re talking about slipping from one reality to another, challenging the audience to stick with the loop-the-loop logic and get to the nub of what Maggie and Bernard could be. The chatty, digressive style covers everything from aliens to film-making, and fans of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy might well enjoy the way the would-be lovers spar with each other.
At a spry 79 minutes, this is an amuse-bouche of a rom-com, aimed at a refined palate and devoid of the kind of slapstick and contrivance that mar most romantic films. Instead, it’s a small film with some big ideas about human potential, sci-fi of a kind, but the theoretical notions are explored through dialogue rather than action. Or are they? The audience for a film in which two people discuss a 17th century philosophy title may not be huge, but they’ll know who they are, and Around the Sun should be catnip for those seeking an intense, thoughtful slice of romance; the £4.99 price tag in the UK suggests that getting smart doesn’t have to be expensive.
Out now. Thanks to Paul Smith PR and Giant Pictures for early access to this film.
Amazon link is live and below.