Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud [1995]

Nelly (Emmanuelle Béart), a young married woman disillusioned with life and her self-unemployed husband, meets Monsieur Arnaud (Michel Serrault), an older, retired judge and businessman, through a mutual friend. The two begin a subtle, undefined relationship that leaves them in the end changed a little more profoundly than either expected. Monsieur Arnaud offers Nelly a considerable sum of money to pay her debts, no strings attached. Along with the money she accepts a job assisting Arnaud in writing his memoirs. As the writing progresses, Nelly comes to know the morally ambiguous past of her employer, and Arnaud contends with awakened feelings of longing. It ends abruptly when Arnaud and his ex-wife decide to tour the world on their way to Seattle, where he will see his estranged son. The French seem to have a talent for ambiguity and subtlety that this film shows off at its best. The relationship between the young woman and the older man is wonderfully intriguing in the way it plays out and changes each of them, and even more wonderful in that they never wind up in bed together. Béart and Serrault give flawless, nuanced performances as two people caught in each other's longing. A quiet and deeply satisfying film. --James McGrath

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