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Movie’s play for cheap sentimentality

There’s a certain charm to dramedy We’ll End Up Together if you like watching privileged French people snipe at each other before getting wasted and then falling into bed together.

If that’s your thing, then We’ll End Up Together, the sequel to Guillaume Canet’s 2010 movie Little Whites Lies, ticks a lot of boxes. If that’s not your thing, then you can probably gauge your own interest level for this ambling film.

There are genuinely affecting moments, but it’s surrounded by a lot of filler that aims for emotional catharsis but comes off as cheap narrative shortcuts.

Starring Marion Cotillard, Francois Cluzet, Benoit Magimel, Laurent Lafitte, Pascale Arbillot, Clementine Beart and Gilles Lellouche, it’s a strong ensemble cast that comfortably slips back into the characters they played a decade earlier – with the exception of Beart who is a newcomer.

If you haven’t seen Little White Lies (and if you haven’t, it doesn’t preclude you from watching this), the gist of it is there is a group of Parisian friends who make their annual pilgrimage to short-tempered hotelier Max’s (Cluzet) holiday beach house in Cap Ferret, about an hour west of Bordeaux.

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In the first film, the group heads there directly after one of them, Ludo, is hit by a truck in Paris, teetering between life and death in hospital. Things were said, uncomfortable truths came out and their friendships blew up.

Picking up almost a decade later, We’ll End Up Together begins with Max opening up his holiday house again. This time, he’s alone, with not even a caretaker to scream at – the lawn is not “Versailles-like”.

The next morning, after a sleepless night, he’s surprised by his friends in his yard. They’ve arrived, unannounced, to mend fences and celebrate Max’s 60th birthday. Max is, uh, pissed.

Bitterness over the ructions has settled in and his life is imploding on several fronts – he and Vero (Valerie Bonneton) are separated and he’s lost all his money and had to sell his restaurant and hotel. The only reason he’s at the holiday house is to ready it for a secret sale.

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Eric (Lellouche) is now a successful actor with a baby daughter and a stern nanny (Tatiana Gousseff), Vincent is in a relationship with dancer Alex (Mikael Wattincourt) but is on friendly terms with his ex-wife, the newly confident Isabelle (Arbillot).

The abrasive Marie (Cotillard), now with a seven-year-old son she nearly forgets in the taxi, has moved back to her hometown and tends bar, having left behind anthropology and her recordings of Amazonian chants but not her alcoholism.

The good-natured Antoine (Lafitte) still hasn’t found fame but is now being paid by Eric to be his assistant.

The emotional core of We’ll End Up Together is Max’s breakdown-in-motion, and Cluzet is given the chance to muscle up in some effective scenes, and it’s maybe just enough to redeem the movie’s preoccupation with its generally shallow characters.

But it feels as if We’ll End Up Together is marginally aware that its characters are not easy to root for, but it’s squarely in their corner anyway.

One scene features Max disdainfully muttering under his breath “Paris plates” when he sees a luxury SUV pull up at speed in the back lane – the irony may be lost on him, but it’s certainly not lost on us.

The final act has two dramatic climaxes, hinting at some kind of emotional resolution but few things are actually resolved. Its own ending undermines the few authentic moments that preceded it, choosing to take the lazy, sentimental path, instead of putting in the character work even though it has performers who could easily pull it off.

Perhaps it’s not that surprising that We’ll End Up Together and its predecessor were popular among audiences, given that they’re both loose albeit very long movies about privileged friends hanging out in a beautiful setting, with some added drama.

If that doesn’t sound grating, if you’re OK with that, then We’ll End Up Together is pleasant enough. But it’s not more than that.

We’ll End Up Together is in cinemas now

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