Thomas In Love

A quirky science-fiction fable, set in a vaguely defined future signaled by funny fashions, temporary facial tattoos, brightly colored interiors, references to cybersex and the omnipresent visiophones — essentially minitel terminals with way better visuals. On the brink of his 33rd birthday, agorophobic Thomas Thomas (Benoit Verhaert) has spent eight...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A quirky science-fiction fable, set in a vaguely defined future signaled by funny fashions, temporary facial tattoos, brightly colored interiors, references to cybersex and the omnipresent visiophones — essentially minitel terminals with way better visuals. On the brink of his 33rd birthday, agorophobic Thomas Thomas (Benoit Verhaert) has spent eight years cocooned in his womb-like apartment, refusing to go out or to let anyone come in, communicating only by visiophone. The government has declared him disabled and pays for his therapy and day-to-day needs, but despite his terror of the outside world, Thomas begun to yearn for something beyond his circumscribed existence, something he can scarcely even admit to himself. Hoping to force Thomas out of his torpor, his psychotherapist (Frederic Topart) signs him up with the "Catch-a-Heart" dating agency, and also recommends that Thomas avail himself of the services of Madame Zoe's, a government-funded agency that sends trained prostitutes to the homes of disabled clients. Thomas at first dismisses the women referred by Catch-a-Heart, but finds himself drawn into unexpected intimacy with a free-spirited young woman named Melodie (Magali Pinglaut), the only candidate who's intrigued rather than repulsed when he confesses that he's a shut-in. Thomas also finds himself attracted to the morose, brittle Eva (Aylin Yay), one of Madame Zoe's girls; her remoteness and repeated requests that he choose another girl only piques his curiosity and then strengthens his resolve to make her deal with him as an individual rather than a depersonalized client. Between Eva and Melodie, Thomas becomes painfully aware that his comfortable isolation is, in fact, not comfortable at all — even the erotic "sextoons" that once satisfied his desires are no longer sufficient. But can Thomas work up the courage to leave his artificial womb? The story is slight and would probably be better suited to a short subject, but first-time feature filmmaker Pierre-Paul Renders gives it a striking formal twist: It's told entirely in the first person (the POV is, of course, Thomas's), a seldom-used device most famously employed in LADY IN THE LAKE (1947).

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