This insinuating, if occasionally drifting melodrama may be anachronistic, but simmers gradually with emotion.
The Witnesses (in French with English subtitles) is a finely mounted, and scaled to the impact of AIDS, here in 1984 Paris. It does compare to poignant Stateside counterparts like Longtime Companion.
The screenplay from noted director Andre Techine (Wild Reeds) evolves through three acts in the summertime, realizing an epoch of liberation and carnal desire.
The notion of immediacy is felt through the tracking shots as Techine sharply works with his lenser, Julien Hirsch.
The full-bodied characters are noticeably represented through Manu (Johan Libereau), Sara (Emmanuelle Beart), Mehdi (Sami Bouajila), and Adrien (Michel Blanc).
New parents Sara and Mehdi, a children's novelist and vice cop of Algerian origin, respectively, have an open marriage. Adrien is their middle-aged physician friend, godfather to their young child. And, Manu is the young handsome guy who affects their lives.
This twisting account sees Adrien taken by the much younger Manu. Yet, it is Mehdi who becomes his sexual partner. A "miracle of being alive" and reality of death comes into play as Manu learns of his disease with the rapid degeneration of the immune system.
Technine connects with the zeitgeist of the times with things less taboo in the early 21st century than back nearly a quarter of a century ago, whether metrosexual, homebound father, or interracial intimacy.
The principles endow their parts with much depth, especially Bouajila, as a passionate samaritan of a man who lets down his guard.
The Witnesses is presented in an even-handed way, able to find much humor within the daily life of those who are often full of life, even in the face of death. If American audiences find it less captivating than the breakthrough Philadelphia the actions unfold as truthfully as the strikingly effusive shots, whether in the air or underwater.