"Thomas in Love" is a concept film, but unlike so many others, director Pierre-Paul Renders sustains his conceit throughout the film's hour and a half running time. Set in the future, the film is shot completely from Thomas's point of view through his videophone. Thomas, an acute agoraphobe, hasn't been outside in 8 years and allows no one else in his apartment. His only connection with the world is through his videophone.
While this technique may sound limiting, it is extremely effective. By restricting the film's perspective, Renders places us squarely in Thomas' world. We understand his reactions because we experience everything he experiences. In the future, the ubiquitous videophone -- small and mobile enough to replace cell phones, even in cars, provides all the coverage necessary to tell the story. And the usual music-video effects that are so oppressively popular - delays, skips and video-stutters - are given context and a raison d'etre here. Even technical aspects that are generally considered flaws of video are used deliberately, like the fuzzy screen that represents the video equivalent of a dial tone, and become an integral part of the narrative.
Along with elegant solutions to technical matters, the film provides a tight narrative that manages to avoid the pitfalls of this pithy subject. Subscribed to a video dating service by his psychiatrist for therapeutic purposes, Thomas is suddenly besieged with phone calls from women looking for romance. He tries to fend off the intruding women by describing his affliction - and the fact that the only way they can meet is in virtual suits for cybersex. They can never meet in person. Despite his original disdain for the therapy, Thomas soon becomes emotionally entangled in the outside world.
A man who is forced to seek the human contact he doesn't even know he needs, but is physically unable to consummate it, could make a maudlin movie of the week. Instead, Renders sprinkles the first half of the film with the ironic humor of Thomas's situation, making the character all the more real and his situation more desperate.
With a cast of some of the most talented actors you never heard of, "Thomas in Love" skillfully draws you into the lives and bizarre customs of a society not too far removed from our own. In this world where video phones are omnipresent and everyone sports a tattoo, Thomas comes to yearn for intimacy yet is terrified of actually being touched. Paradoxically, by presenting everything from the detached perspective of Thomas' videophone, the film makes a more powerful statement about the nature and power of love than most Hollywood movies that attempt to tug the heartstrings.
DISTRIBUTOR: IFC Films
DIRECTOR: Pierre-Paul Renders
PRODUCERS: Diana Elbaum, Jacques Bidou, Arlette Zylberberg
CAST: Benoit Verhaert, Aylin Yay, Magali Pinglault
In French with subtitles.