Writer-director Alain Guiraudie’s Staying Vertical is a strange trip indeed. Traveling through the mountains while writing a script, screenwriter Léo (Damien Bonnard) comes upon Marie (India Hair), a single mother of two and a shepherd who works on her father’s farm. Within the first 20 minutes or so of the film, he knocks her up and sticks around after the baby is born. Without explanation, Marie takes off with her two boys, leaving Léo behind to care for the baby. Marie’s father, Jean-Louis (Raphaël Thiéry), allows him to stay on the farm in exchange for taking care of the sheep.
Meanwhile, Léo develops an obsession with a pretty young buck named Yoan (Basile Meilleurat), who lives down the road with a cantankerous old man, Marcel (Christian Bouillette). Their relationship is ambigous: Yoan seems to do nothing but occasionally clean Marcel’s house—and not very well—while Marcel sits in his chair, blasting Pink Floyd and condemning Yoan with anti-gay rants. While this is going on, Léo seeks assistance for his writer’s block from a spiritual healer (Laure Calamy) while dodging his publisher (Sébastien Novac).
Staying Vertical has some great characters, particularly Marcel and Yoan. It also has a few gorgeous and memorable images, such as a brood of vagrants descending upon Léo and the baby under a bridge and a truly odd final scene involving wolves coming out of the dark onto the farm. Other than that, though, it’s really nothing more than a number of episodes and subplots that don’t exactly connect. A pervading homoeroticism that starts out mildly interesting goes somewhere completely unbelivable. I’m not sure what the point of it is, but I can say that about a lot in this film.
(AMC River East) C
Chicago International Film Festival