A chance encounter with an old flame turns very quickly into amour fou in Cedric Kahn’s well-acted but numbingly repetitive new film “Regrets.” Mathieu (Yvan Attal), an architect who works with his wife Lisa (Arly Jover), rushes to the hospital to see his cancer-stricken mother, who has very little time left to live. A distraught Mathieu, leaving the hospital, suddenly notices on the street Maya (Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi), whom he had broken up with 15 years before. She quickly flees his gaze, but later calls him and invites him to her home on the countryside, where she lives with her husband Franck (Philippe Katerine). Their lost romance is very quickly rekindled, and they meet in hotel rooms and other places for furtive sex sessions under the noses of their respective spouses. As the film progresses, the relationship grows increasingly passionate and desperate on both ends.
The title of the film is also its main theme – Mathieu and Maya deeply regret they way they fell apart years before, and while they may have been able to fool themselves in the intervening years that they are fully content with their lives, each has never fully let go of the other. Mathieu becomes increasingly unhinged and obsessed with being with Maya, allowing his business and his relationship with his wife to fall into peril. Maya’s impetuous and volatile personality manifests itself in how she goes back and forth in her willingness to give up her life with Franck and begin again with Mathieu.
The greatest assets of “Regrets”are the two central performances by Attal and Bruni-Tedeschi; they convincingly portray the all-encompassing fervor of their characters’ relationship. The film also does a good job in detailing the couple’s lives outside their affair; their spouses, especially, are well-drawn. While Franck doesn’t come across as particularly sympathetic, he isn’t evil, either. Lisa perhaps gets the worst deal of all the characters – she is greatly invested in growing their architecture business and tries to push them into more ambitious territory, which Mathieu wrecks in his pursuit of Maya.
Unfortunately, this potentially compelling material is marred by glaring missteps, not the least of which is the clichéd framing of Mathieu and Maya’s sexual couplings, which prove to be the least interesting aspect of the film, and seem dutifully perfunctory. Matters are not helped by the insistent and very disappointing score by Philip Glass, whose music in this film comes as close to generic Muzak as I’ve heard. So while “Regrets” is worth seeing mainly for Attal and Bruni-Tedeschi, its ploddingly linear movement and bland stylistics keep this film from being more than mildly diverting.