“Jeanne (Esther Garrel) crouches in an alleyway at night, her face a fountain of tears,” begins Carson Lund at Slant. “She’s just been dumped by Matéo (Paul Toucang) and kicked out of their shared Paris apartment. Seeking refuge, she walks to her father Gilles’s (Éric Caravaca) flat, where the man’s been sleeping with his former student, Ariane (Louise Chevillotte), an amiable socialite only a few months older than his daughter. And with these few concise scenes, the terms have been set for Philippe Garrel’s lean and limber Lover for a Day, yet another of the filmmaker’s densely anecdotal studies of romantic fidelity.”
“Garrel’s filmography has acted to some extent as a case of extended family therapy, considering at various points father Maurice, his own life, the screen presence of his son Louis and, now, daughter Esther,” writes Filmmaker’s Vadim Rizov. “This does not imply a neat chronological progression: Garrel the elder examined the impact of his father’s adultery and affair on him as a child by having Louis (sort of) stand in for himself in the recent Jealousy. Nor is a woman taking the lead a first—still, Esther is a new addition, and Lover for a Day accordingly tweaks the formula of Garrel’s post-Regular Lovers work a bit with the previously unknown element of two medium-speed dolly-ins and an uncharacteristically extensive Jules and Jim-invoking voiceover—appropriate for a film about a queasy menage of sorts. . . . I love Garrel’s psychological precision and considerable aesthetic achievements while conceding there’s something regressively resonant about repeatedly returning to the same regret-instilling forms of behavior over and over.”
“Cinematographer Renato Berta’s blacks and whites, as in In the Shadow of Women, exist to minimize everything aside from the performances,” writes Zach Lewis at In Review Online, adding that “it’s Chevilotte, a relative newcomer, who gets the most close-ups, as she does the heavy Lacanian lifting of multiple désirs: mother, friend, girlfriend, freedom.”
“Lover for a Day confirms what we already knew, that Philippe Garrel is a master filmmaker,” writes Jon Auman at Screen Slate. “But it also begs the question of why it isn't a better film. . . . After half-an-hour of subtlety, the film inexplicably begins to shout out what it has already told us in a much quieter voice: that this is a film about youth and how it ends, and about the pain of falling in love for the first time and then possibly for the last. We’ve already intuited as much from the actors’ smallest gestures; it’s not entirely clear why Garrel feels the need to punctuate them with exclamation points.”
Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.
Update, 10/14: “Garrel and his screenwriter, the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière, manage to cram a lot of philosophical ideas and concepts into the short running time,” writes Odie Henderson at RogerEbert.com, “but I found myself caring less about them and just allowing the film’s harsh black and white cinematography to wash over me as I rooted for Ariane to get her life back together.”