Shall We Kiss? (review)

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Émilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michaël Cohen) have just had a lovely evening together: it didn’t start out romantic, just one stranger doing a favor for another, but it’s threatening to end that way when he requests a good-night kiss from her. She must refuse, because she and Gabriel are both already involved with others, and a similar simple kiss caused enormous trouble for two of her friends. This charming and tender and wisely funny movie shifts then to Émilie’s tale of Judith (Virginie Ledoyen: Bon Voyage) and Nicolas (writer-director Emmanuel Mouret), best platonic friends whose relationship becomes something more when he starts having trouble with his sex life and looks to her for a jump-start cure. Can friends become lovers? Of course they can… but what if one of them is already spoken for? Here’s a romantic comedy like Woody Allen might make if he were a young man again today, one that respects the power of physical attraction and wraps itself up in the awkward sweetness of burgeoning love and sexual discovery. And the way Mouret postpones the inevitable — or is it? — kiss between Émilie and Gabriel is a masterful creation of amorous suspense that is both old-fashioned — could a mere kiss really work as a cinematic climax in the 21st century? — and thoroughly modern, because it’s not the product of film-code censorship but a recognition that just because anything goes doesn’t mean it has to.

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