A note from Stella:

It is always nice to welcome a new fan to Byrneholics, especially when she, like me, is inspired by Mr. Byrne to write reviews, create images, and contemplate the man and his art.

This is a lovely review of the French version of the film by Magalie. She and I worked on this English translation together.

There are SPOILERS for the film, though, so please be aware!

Read more about Magalie and her introduction to the art of Gabriel Byrne at the end of the review.

Just A Sigh/Le temps de l’aventure : a film by Jérôme Bonnell

In this fifth feature film by Jérôme Bonnell, a romantic  life is played out in the space of ten hours.

She is Alix, a woman in her forties, an unsuccessful actress, not acting  “just for fame,” as she  often says. She lives with Antoine in Paris and gets back to his place every morning after a theatrical performance in Calais and a night spent in a hotel there.

He is Douglas, around sixty, a professor of literature, married with four  children who have had plenty of time to love him, hate him and finally accept him, as he  says to Alix. He is English and is actually going to Paris to the funeral of one of his female colleagues, a colleague who used to be his lover.

She is lively and fresh, full of energy, cheerful, but also filled with fears and uncertainties.

He is a sad man, smart, reserved, elegant, but also full of tenderness and sensuality.

Still, that morning, these two people, so far apart, will experience a delicious moment in time.

Everything starts on the train going to Paris. Alix’s eyes are attracted by this somber man, wiping his tears away. He looks up; she shies away. When she looks at him again, he looks back before  it is his turn to shy away. This will go on during the entire journey. But the  train soon reaches Gare du Nord and she knows and feels she will lose him forever. And then, unexpectedly, this unknown man approaches Alix. He is lost, he does not know the way to the Church of St Clothilde. Taken aback, she can only mumble a few words, and another passenger gives the information to the mysterious Englishman. And that is the end of it…

This is not a good start to the day. Antoine is already gone when Alix gets to his flat. She leaves a message on his cell-phone: she will be unreachable, her battery is out and her charger is in Calais. She is penniless, her bank account is in the red and her credit card is blocked, and now her audition for a new role is a disaster.

On this day, the 21st of June, everything seems to go wrong. Her way leads her to the subway, her mind breaks free, her heart is already far away.

TO JOIN HIM. This is obvious. She wants to yield to this mad desire, this desire which is gut-wrenching and makes her do anything: going to the funeral of a totally unknown woman, missing two trains, running through Paris, because something inside her is pushing her irresistibly towards this man and she cannot stop it. She cannot miss this “rendezvous” that life is offering them both. It is impossible not to find him again.

Then an old story begins, as old as time. The story of a shared attraction, a long kiss, mutual caressing, embraced bodies, intertwined minds. And when he will ask her: “Why did you follow me?” she will answer: “I didn’t follow you, I went and found you.” Because it was him, because it was her.

gb-justasigh-by-Magalie-Ruffin-04After loving him, Alix runs away for a few hours. Panic-stricken, he will wander Paris, looking for her. She will come back freely, “to say good bye,” as she will tell him. He disappears in  the elevator, with a wan face, a bleeding heart, and she races up the stairs of the hotel to enjoy his sweet  lips and feel the hands of her  fleeting lover one more time. The bodies exhausted by such love will leave room for confidences and secrets that each of these strangers will share generously, never judging in any way.

But time passes, minutes tick away, tick, tock, the countdown has begun. The train to Calais for Alix is at 6:03 PM.  The faces become tense, there is a glimmer of anxiety in the eyes, the hearts start to thump. The spirit of the Fête de la Musique filling the streets will not succeed in easing the situation. Nothing will. The eyes of the two lovers swing from the clock to each other.

gb-justasigh-by-Magalie-RuffinDouglas, filled with terror at the idea of losing her and discovering a growing uncertainty in Alix’s eyes, unveils his feelings, saying: “What if I asked you to come with me?” But in vain.

A taxi will take them to the station, a second and last drive, both shared and wrenching. Sweet and tender kisses, fingers intermingled. They can’t part.

Like two prisoners walking inexorably towards death, Alix and Douglas, with their eyes drenched in despair, a lump in their throats, can only give each other a gentle touch for the last time, promising to “do better in another life,” before Alix is carried away by the crowd forever.

gb-justasigh-by-Magalie-Ruffin-02This is a deeply tender film, with a  very intense sensuality. A deeply moving film too, about love transcending two beings, torturing them but also making them so superb!

If Jérôme Bonnell and his camera glide over the sexual embraces, it is because the film is above all about sentimentality, about rediscovered adolescence, hopes and dreams, in a secluded hotel room, on a summer afternoon. This is one of those films which succeeds in exalting love, even in an adventure with no future between two busy people.  As in Lost In Translation and On Madison Bridges, you can feel that, for those two lovers, things could have gone either way. And what if? What if  Alix had not lost sight of Douglas in the station? What if Antoine had not answered her last phone call? If she had missed the train? And if they had really told each other “I love you”? And what if things were still possible? If Douglas finally yielded to the irresistible desire to find her again? Because, after all, there was an envelope in his pocket, the envelope with the drawing Alix had done of his profile. Her address was on it, wasn’t it ?

Just A Sigh rings true. It is a very decent, sincere, sweet film. The actors shine in it. Emmanuelle Devos is singularly vibrant, amusing, touching, lost. She makes you feel like running, living–you wish to burst out with joy. Gabriel Byrne is at the summit of his art with a bewitching charm. The look in his eyes alone could have been sufficient to express his desire and his broken heart. It makes you wish to love, to be protective, to hug him fiercely. A film full of humour too, sometimes burlesque. A particularly moving film that cannot leave anyone indifferent. You will love Alix for her youthfulness, her fits of laughter, her innocence, her fears. You will love Douglas for his appeal, his gentleness, and his wisdom, but also and above all, for his overwhelming expression of loss when this woman, who might  be the last love in his life, disappears.

gb-justasigh-by-Magalie-Ruffin-03

Images are from the film, captured and framed by Magalie.

more about Magalie

My name is Magalie. I live in a big village called Verton in the North of France, about 55 miles from Calais, opposite Great Britain. I’m a teacher. My hobbies are reading, cooking, gardening, listening to music, walking, swimming and playing with all my pets.

I hadn’t been to the cinema for a very long time when I decided I would go and see “Le temps de l’Aventure” last April. I didn’t know anything about this movie but when I saw the trailer and the poster on the Internet I felt attracted right away. The music, the story and the actor moved me so much that I drove to the movie theater in the evening. I came back home in tears. Gabriel Byrne’s performance broke my heart. I think I had never seen an actor so close to the reality. It’s just as if I was hiding somewhere in the movie, unseen but being able to see it all, feel it all, even their breathings, the sounds of their touching. In the end, I went to see it 3 times and went on crying!!! I got the DVD last August and cried again!!!

I didn’t really know Gabriel, I had only seen him years ago in “The Usual Suspects.” But now I wanted to know more about him. I read many interviews, saw many Youtube trailers and shows and bought several DVDs of his main films. I did love “Autumn Hearts” but to be honest, I think I like them all and still haven’t been able to lend any of them!!! They’re part of the house now!!! LOL

I’ve been terribly moved and still am, by “Stories from Home” in which Gabriel is not an actor. I felt his deep sense of sensitivity, of delicacy, of altruism, of softness. Of course, like most women, I find this man very attractive, sexy, gorgeous but I also look at him as a very nice man, easy talking,very intelligent, cultivated, interested in other people, other cultures, who doesn’t behave like most stars do. He is true and doesn’t like superficiality and in this way, he must look like the rest of us. I think he is a true Human Being. There will always be a special place in my heart and soul for this actor who sometimes seems so lost and sad…

Many thanks to Magalie for sharing her review and her images with us!

17 Comments

  1. Merci Magali. Good review. Heartfelt and thoughtful. And so true. I am hopeful that I too will be able to see this film on the big screen soon. The DVD is great, but this film deserves to be seen and shared in the dark, hushed cinema. The stuff of dreams.

    • Angelle, I do agree with you. This film has to be seen in the dark room of a quiet cinema and if possible when there are not too many people. You can more easily feel its intimacy, it is just as if you are in the hotelroom with them, following them in the streets of Paris. That is a very deep sensation. Hope you can experience it too.

  2. Verónica

    Well done my friend Magalie, you surprised me.
    When it’s necessary you can be serious and deep.
    Good work. Congratulations.

    • Oh of course I can be very serious !!! LOL
      Like my favourite actor, I also have a sense of humour. Laughing 5 minutes a day keeps the doctor away !!!
      Thanks for your congratulations Veronica. Hope to “surprise” you again, who knows ??

  3. Thank you for your review Magalie. I have not seen this film, but maybe one day? I feel I know so much of it already, but it does not compare with actually seeing it.
    Great review. I had read Stella’s review and cried, and could not reply to it. Stupid I know.
    I also liked what you wrote about yourself, and how you had not particularly noticed Gabriel Byrne before. I think your impressions of him are spot on. There is something very special about him.

    • I am sorry my essay made you cry, Kris. But I’m glad you read it anyway. This film is such an achievement for Mr. Byrne. He deserves our tears AND our heart-felt gratitude. And he has both, it seems. There is something very special about him. Special indeed.

  4. Hi Kris,
    I understand very well when you say that you couldn’t reply to Stella’s review and all the emotions you felt about it. There are people who have deep feelings and are very sensitive, that’s my case too. But it’s not stupid at all, it’s just the way we are and feel
    You are right, I hadn’t really noticed Gabriel Byrne before I saw “Just A Sigh” but I think I now, will never forget him !!!
    I feel I have soooooo much in common with some of his caracters in different movies but also with the man he is in real life that I feel very impressed every time I see, his face, his emotions, his deep feelings and sadness on my TV screen. He really is a good actor but more important, I feel he must be a very Great Man.

  5. Thank you for this review Magalie.
    It is written with emotions and deep thoughts.
    This movie has really made an extraordinary impression on me,
    and it is so interesting to read what other persons feel and think about this movie and Gabriel’s performance in it.

    • Well, you know Nora, I wrote this review in French first, just after I had seen the movie for the 1st time last April. It sort of healed the pain I had felt and the sadness I had witnessed in this moving movie. Now that time has passed, I think that I wrote the review with my heart instead of my hand…

  6. AFTER I READ WHAT MAGALIE WROTE ABOUT GABRIEL I FEEL THE SAME I THINK THAT HE IS A MAN WITH A GREAT SENSIBILITY IN ALL THAT HE DOES HE HAS A PLACE IN MY HEART ………PROFOUNDLY.

    • I think this man’s heart is full of everything and of everyone. I am not very surprised that women love this man. Of course he’s charming and attractive, he’s got gorgeous hair, lovely sapphir eyes but Kevin Costner’s quite sexy too. Hey, what about George Clooney ??? But there’s something missing in them or at least it’s not as obvious as it is with Gabriel Byrne, I mean the delicacy, the softness and this “epidermal”sensibility, this great shyness which often moves him so much when he tells something about him that he’s on the verge of shedding a tear. What we love must be his moving soul which moves us more than any other actor.

    • Dora, thanks for visiting! Yes, Magalie really captured what many of us are feeling right now, didn’t she? Great review.

      • Thanks Stella but to be honest, it is never difficult to write about something or someone that/who inspires you profoundly. I do not think I have ever been so “moved” by anyone. Mr Byrne is so touching in all he does and all he says. And when he does not say or do anything special, still he can be so terribly communicative. His whole body speaks for itself and offers us so many emotions that it is just impossible not to feel moved while watching him. So, words just came easily to write this little review of this nice movie and its wonderful actor.

  7. sweetbud2

    What a wonderful review, thank you so much. Was so glad I got the French version and did not wait. So, Magalie have you watched all of In Treatment.? That is where many of us fell so hard for this wonderful man…

    • Hello sweetbud2,
      Thanks for your note. The very first movie I saw with Mr Byrne was “Usual Suspects”, many years ago. After I had seen “Le Temps…” last April, I decided to try to find some other movies. As there is no longer any place to rent movie around here, I bought some of them. The very first one was “In Treatment Season I”. I had not watched the whole season, that I already ordered the 2 other seasons !! I loved the serie. He was perfect in this role. I bought many others which I do like very much but there’s a special place in my heart for some in particular : “Autumn Hearts”, “Wah Wah”, “I, Anna”, “Spider”. I still have some to watch. I really was terribly moved by some of his roles, not by the characters but rather by the way he interpreted his roles, with so much emotion and truth. Maybe this is just the way he is in real life, a true being. I do like the actor of course, like everybody here and I am very impressed by the real man who hides behind the actor. Actually, he does not really hides a lot because his deep feelings often show in the characters he plays. After I had read and heard many of his interviews I came to the conclusion that if I am impressed and “attracted” to this man it’s because there are some things that we both have in common. He is a wonderful actor but most important he is a wonderful person.

  8. My dream come true!! I just saw Just a Sigh in Argentina,Bs As. Here it´s named ” El tiempo de los amantes” What can I say? Iám truly excited to see Mr.Byrne in a romantic role.He´s a wonderful actor but the most important thing is that he seems to be a very good person.It´s impossible not to feel moved by him, all the things he does,his sensibility,his tenderness.He´s a real man very intelligent and cultivated. I had read Magalie and Stella reviews a time ago but I could not reply but now I saw the film I was so touched, felt all the pain,love,sadness and emotions..Oh God…his face… Somebody said once that if he enters your soul you will never want to let him go and I agree with that.

  9. Helene Laplace

    Thanks a lot for this review Magalie (am in France too, near Paris). We had the same experience with Gabriel Byrne :)
    I mean, I discovered him in “Just a sigh” (which I watch every day this week, sometimes I need to watch it again and again LOL) and I “felt in love” with the artist and the man. I have watched several of other movies and I now hope to meet him one day
    This movie, Just a sigh, is beautiful and so great because it really sounds true (I believe, no I am sure such experience can happen in real life : believe me :D )

    Thanks again for sharing your feelings. I am not very good at writting my feelings and thanks to you and Stella, I recognize myself in your writtings and I can really feel the same

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