Just a SighThursday 05 Dec 2013
Let's face it: many a person's fantasy is to find themselves sitting across from Gabriel Byrne on a train - or, for that matter, French screen icon Emmanuelle Devos. If you're one such dreamer, or perhaps are more interested in seeing two actors doing much in the service of screen chemistry, then buy a ticket and hop aboard Just a Sigh. Your memories, what-ifs and what-might-have-beens will be your travelling companions for the duration of this trip.
Alix (Devos) is an actress working in Calais who's taking the red-eye train back home to Paris for an audition. She's no sooner plonked herself in her seat when she realises that there's a game of eye tennis in the offing with a man (Byrne) further down the carriage. The furtive glances continue all the way to Gare du Nord and then comes the moment of truth for both of them: say something, or put the journey down to another one of those missed opportunities that we all carry around with us.
From Brief Encounter to Before Sunrise, the premise of Just a Sigh is as familiar as the song from which it takes its title, so credit to writer-director Jérôme Bonnell for making such a compelling romantic drama about chance, fate, the different parts we all play and the journeys we are taking. As in life, so on screen: how quickly time goes by.
For Byrne, this is a great role, allowing him to see-saw between well-worn sadness and long-buried joy, while Devos' tender yet tenacious turn makes you wish, yet again, that a wider audience would discover her talents. Both their characters are as believable as they are likeable, and the way in which Bonnell handles their emotions and expectations is immensely satisfying.
He's right: we're all just works in progress who never really know what's around the corner. It's good to be reminded of that.