Every scene in Lover for a Day presents itself as a cinematically-constructed reflection on the nature of love and relationships.
French filmmaker Philippe Garrel communicates his thoughts concerning these subjects by utilizing nearly every component of his equally meticulously-subdued and meticulously-meaningful mis-en-scene: the precise framing of his shadow-strewn compositions courtesy of the black-and-white cinematography, the intermittently imposing score, the script’s structural esotericism and spoken eloquence full of bald insights, and the resonantly minimalist acting (Louise Chevillotte makes a phenomenal debut, and Esther Garrel continues to dazzle after her breakout role — at least in the eyes of most Americans — as the girlfriend Elio scorns in last year’s Call Me by Your Name; both have SOOOME careers ahead of them, so jump on their bandwagons now to feel cool later when they hit it big).
Taken together, these elements mine the everyday minutia of breakups to comment on their cyclical, almost ritualistic tradition of rich melodramatic heartbreak, complete with oodles of passionate emotionality and sexuality; the repetition of physical liaisons in hallways is just one visual indicator of this persistent turmoil. The title provides a dual window into this concept, thereby making sense of the meanderingly-subtle subtextual focus: Though Lover for a Day clearly refers to one-time trysts that nevertheless irrevocably alter what could’ve been far more lasting relationships, it also speaks to how many of these once-significant, but usually-fleeting relationships ultimately feel, when evaluating the scope of an entire life, as long as a mere day. And yet, all together, they vaguely define our lives in love.
Perhaps to reflect this lack of substantial connective tissue between life’s romantic rendezvous (or simply due to the fact that there are a whopping four screenwriters credited here), Lover for a Day often seems disjointed, with each scene loosely leading to the next. They develop certain ideas individually, but very few build from one to the next, which highlights how the general premise and the plot that unfolds out of it are deliberately general to emphasize their foundational, Everyman, universal aspects. While this lack of forward progression may cause the mind to wander, when it re-engages, there’s always something to discover in Garrel’s intellectually jam-packed cinematic landscape.