André Téchiné’s adaptation of Philippe Djian’s novel Unforgivable stars André Dussolier as an elderly crime author who impulsively marries globe-hopping real-estate agent Carole Bouquet, and moves with her to an island near Venice to write. But Dussolier keeps getting distracted: by the disappearance of his flaky, drug-addicted daughter; by having to take care of his pre-teen granddaughter; and by his concern with what his new wife is up to during the long hours she spends “at the office” or on business trips. That’s three generations of women keeping Dussolier from his work, which may be why the writer seeks out the friendship and confidence of a man: Mauro Conte, the criminal son of a veteran private investigator, who tries his hand at the family business when Dussolier asks him to start tailing Bouquet. Soon, the young hoodlum becomes as dangerously obsessive as his employer.
This fascination with mysteries—with wanting a complicated, even conspiratorial explanation for behavior that is easily explained—is at the heart of Unforgivable. But while the movie is masterfully acted (especially by the beguilingly aloof Bouquet) and artfully shot (with gorgeous images of Italy at its ritziest), the jumble of characters and plotlines remain indistinct and removed throughout. That’s probably by design; though even if so, that doesn’t make Unforgivable any more compelling. At one point, Bouquet waves off Dussolier’s assertion that his daughter had taken up with a gangster, saying, “No one says ‘gangster’ except in your books.” That seems to be one of the main theses of Unforgivable: that nothing is as dramatic as it appears, and presuming otherwise means risking unnecessary trouble and pain. Téchiné opens with a quote from Arthur Schopenhauer, about how he finds it difficult to understand and explain where his ideas come from, and he ends his movie with Dussolier finally finishing his book. What happens between is little more than fodder for stories, with no greater meaning than what it inspires.