“L’ Amant Double” Review

double_LoverL’Amant Double (Double Lover) [2017] – ★★★1/2

François Ozon (Frantz (2016), In the House (2013)) is a French director who is uninhibited when it comes to portraying sexuality/erotica on screen and was exploring it freely in his previous films Jeune et Jolie (2013) and Swimming Pool (2003). His latest psychological thriller L’Amant Double is another testament to this director’s fascinating way of portraying psychologically interesting scenarios and sensuality/sexuality on screen. Based on a book by Joyce Carol Oates, L’Amant Double presents Chloé (Marine Vacth), a young woman who seeks help for her psychosomatic stomach pains from a psychoanalyst Paul (Jérémie Renier). It is not long before Chloé and Paul fall in love and move in together, and all is going well until Chloé becomes troubled by her lover’s personal secrets. This erotically-charged film is not without its problems, but it explores the nature of personal identity from an interesting angle, portrays sexually-charged romance unflinchingly, and plays with our beliefs, expectations and various “what-if” questions. In the end, L’Amant Double becomes a film not so much about an obsessive romance and morbid fascinations as about the question of the extent to which one’s imagination can overrun one’s sanity and eventually completely undermine one’s perception of reality.

It takes a brave director to show the insides of a naked woman’s intimate parts as one of the film’s opening scenes, but that is exactly what Ozon does. Designed to shock and provoke, this scene of Chloé on a medical examination table quickly sets the tone for what is to follow and makes Lanthimos’s opening shot of a heart surgery in The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) look like a child’s play. The first interesting aspect of L’Amant Double is the characters. Chloé is the exact opposite of Paul. If Paul has a self-assured, quiet demeanour, remaining mysterious, Chloé is a hotpot of emotions, being frankly open about her problems and how Paul can help her. The audience immediately sides with Chloé because it knows what to expect, and then it is easy to be fascinated by Paul and his secrets. The thing is, apparently, Paul has an identical twin brother, and there would not be anything unusual about it if Paul was not so secretive and mysterious about it. When Chloé meets Louis, she is in for a surprise…and so are we.

double lover

The clear sources of inspiration behind the film’s look and themes are Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Dead Ringers (1988), and Black Swan (2010). In the film, we have a situation not that dissimilar to the situation in Dead Ringers, where two identical brothers circle a female character, and if that film puts its female character on a side track, L’Amant Double put its female character in the driving seat. What we get then is the “delirium” of a film, which finds itself not too far away from Repulsion and Black Swan. Vacth gives a convincing enough performance as someone who is confused by the events in her life, but we also sense complete vulnerability, guilt and family trauma residing somewhere deep within Chloé. Chloé, with her distinctive short haircut, resembles Rosemary from Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby in the final part of the film, and we cannot help but wonder whether all the character ever wanted was just to be understood and accepted. This will explain her complete openness to Paul at the beginning, and, as Paul was hiding himself from her, she presumed that there was no other remedy open to her, but to flee to a more “straightforward” and “understandable” brother, who is not hiding too much and who can provide all the answers for her.

Following from this, some may say that Chloé’s attraction to Louis is too unreasonable/unbelievable, but, actually, it could be one of the most fascinating and certainly true-to-life aspects of this film. The fact that Chloé is completely taken by the twin brother of her lover may be completely understandable. There could few things in life more awe-inspiring than looking at someone and realising that that someone shares the physical appearance of your loved one completely. The feeling is exhilarating and mind-boggling, largely because you may have grown to love that appearance, and the paradox now is that a complete stranger is before you –an impostor of your loved one. It is like nature’s witchcraft, only it is all real and scientifically explainable. Thus, Chloé’s dilemmas are fascinating, and Ozon also couples all that with Cronenbergesque body-horror. 

l'amant double

It is true that, during some L’Amant Double scenes, there is a feeling like one watches an almost below-average TV thriller with a bit confused and silly premise and overt sexual content. However, underneath, there is much imbedded symbolism and meaning to be found. For example, the theme of cats is predominant. Chloé has a cat Milo, which Paul, her lover, does not like. By loving Milo, Chloé shows herself loving, and craving warmth and affection, while we immediately subconsciously distance ourselves from Paul. We know that cats are independent creatures by nature, and, in the film, all three characters strive in some way to achieve that status, but without much success. Paul and Louis may live separate lives, but they remain permanently psychologically and emotionally intertwined, even if by the secret they share. Chloé also cannot find a right balance between dependency and independence, and that is most evident in her relationship with her mother.

The most lamentable aspect of the film is its final part and the twist, which, apart from being a bit preposterous, is also not presented well. The problem with the ending is that the plot, as it has been unveiled, is more fascinating, and the ending does not assault the imagination quite so much. Despite this, one of the most admirable features of the film is that we had all the clues as to the twist/ending right before us, but we, together with Chloé, refused to take them seriously and just let ourselves be fooled by the “theatre of doubles”. Like Chloé, our morbid fascination and attention was so much on the twins, their mysteries, and all the sex, that we did not even consider that the reality can be more attuned to mundane explanations, daily practicalities and text-book medicine. We do not really listen to Chloé, being fooled by the twins, but the story gives all the hints at the beginning when a gynaecologist refers Chloé to a psychiatrist.

L’Amant Double may be described as a bit tasteless and too frank in its presentation, but it is a psychologically interesting account regardless. The film’s final part and twist is a bit silly and unbelievable, the weakest link, which could have been presented more effectively and intriguingly to justify its premise. However, the film is still a stylish, erotically-enticing thriller, which is deeper and more complex than first meets the eye. 

See also my lists of similarly-themed films: 20 Unmissable Erotically-Charged Films and “My Evil Twin” Film List.   


10 Comments Add yours

  1. MIB says:

    Yay – you made it all the way through at last! 😉

    Great write up, certainly very in depth with the cross references to other films and the exploration of the psychological aspects. Glad I’m not only the one who thought the final act was a bit hokey. I don’t know if that was in the novel or was Ozon going into business for himself but for me it was akin to the silly “twist” in Switchblade Romance (aka High Tension) in spoiling a good film. :-/


    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thank you! I liked this film more than I thought I would. I also have not read the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, but the ending was underwhelming given all the build-up to it. I also thought throughout the film that it would go into the direction of multiple personality disorder when it comes to Paul, but it never did. There were certainly hints dropped about that as well.


      1. MIB says:

        I thought that was going to be the twist as well, but it seemed a bit *too* obvious, so actually having genuine twins was pretty a cool swerve.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. John Charet says:

    Great post 🙂 I have not seen the film yet so I cannot comment. Nevertheless, I did do a blog entry on Francois Ozon regarding my favorite films of his. Anyway, here is the link below and keep up the great work as always 🙂



  3. Dude the cleaner says:

    I don’t think I saw that one yet. Nice review. However I do love François Ozon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      If you love Ozon, you may like this one. It is cerebral, twisty and very much provocative. Would love to know your opinion.


  4. Wonderful write-up! I thought I was in for a typical French thriller but it turns out to be a bit more than that. I thought it was intelligent, the main character is interesting, and even titillating at times (without being sleazy). I enjoyed its use of mirrors and how, essentially, I think it is about a woman who wishes to be seen. I liked it a lot.


    1. dbmoviesblog says:

      Thanks! Yes, I completely agree. I did not know myself I would like it that much and it is cleverer than first assumed.


  5. You put it down really nicely. I haven’t watched it yet, loved Ozon’s “Frantz”, “Young and Beautiful” was ok. The influences you recognized are the movies I hold in high value, so this review really got me interested. I am curious about the ending and the way I will experience it. Thanks for interesting insights!


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