Les Combattants

Director: Thomas Cailley (2015)

A hot summer in southern France leads to a smouldering romance to in this tinder dry romcom.

Landscape gardener Arnaud (Kevin Azais) is tricked into a self-defence exercise at an army recruitment fair.

His sparring partner is the aggressive Madeleine (Adele Haenel) against whom he resorts to cheating to win.

Commissioned with his brother to build a wooden garden frame Arnaud is shocked to discover his clients are Madeleine’s parents.

He’s intrigued and quickly enamoured of the intense Madeleine, a university drop-out whom Arnaud sees undertaking a punishing exercise regime.

Madeleine’s a strong, sexy, sarcastic and an aggressive problem solver who is convinced the end of the world is nigh.

She’s applied to a military camp for survivalist training. Intrigued by her intensity, Arnaud signs up for the course too.

The plastic inflatable beds and stalls of the army are contrasted with Arnaud’s natural and solid constructions.

In a gender twist typical of the intelligent script, it is Arnaud who gently applies the camouflage makeup on Madeleine.

The two great leads are captured by fluid camerawork and natural light. The pace is picked up by a scorching 1980’s-inspired synth soundtrack.

It‘s just a shame the story doesn’t commit fully to Madeleine’s character or to it’s apocalyptic leanings.

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