After A Few Days with Me and A Heart in WInter, Sautet concluded his loose trilogy on unrequited love and the male gaze with this career-capping triumph that once again features Emmanuelle Béart as the beautiful object of an emotionally withdrawn man’s curiously expressed affections. Nelly (Béart) is a freelance literary editor struggling to make ends meet for her and her unemployed husband (Charles Berling) in the recession economy of the early 1990s. Through a friend, she meets the septuagenarian businessman Pierre Arnaud (the great Michel Serrault), who offers to pay off her debts if she will serve as his amanuensis for the writing of his memoirs. At first suspicious of the old man’s motives, Nelly eventually agrees, and over the course of their long afternoon sessions together they form a bond that is at once more than mere friendship and less than physical intimacy. Majestically acted by Serrault and Béart and meticulously observed down to the smallest of details, Sautet’s profoundly moving final feature finds the director at the very height of his creative powers.
“Sautet is a septuagenarian himself, but there's an admirable detachment and sense of balance in the way that he attends and responds to his title characters, not merely defining one through the eyes of the other. The results are seamless and profound—novelistic in the best sense.” —Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
“A movie like this is likely to appeal to the same kinds of people who admire the novels of Henry James. It is about the emotional negotiations of people who place great value on their status quo, yet find it leaves them lonely. Sometimes, of course, the alternatives to loneliness are not worth the price, and that is something to think about, especially for Monsieur Arnaud and perhaps even for Nelly.” —Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times