Belgian Joachim Lafosse presented himself with this emotional, shocking, but also realistic drama in the main program of Cannes in 2021, and he had “The Restless” or “Les intranquilles” and six nominations in the selection for the Belgian film of the year. As is often the case with Francophone films made in Belgium, “Restless” is also a French co-production, so both main actors were nominated for the French annual Cesar Film Award. Damien Bonnard is Damien, a relatively successful painter married to Leila (Leila Bekhti), a restorer of antique furniture. They also have a young son who adores his eccentric, impulsive and unpredictable dad, but it quickly becomes clear to us that there is something much, much more serious behind this seemingly extravagant, bohemian lifestyle.
Damien is actually mentally ill and he suffers from bipolar disorder which causes him to be in a phase of euphoria at one point and completely depressed the next. He normally takes pills regularly, but after the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, his next exhibition is approaching, and he claims that there is no inspiration for painting under therapy. And the brilliant Lafosse brings an account of the suffering of this family and slowly introduces us to the rhythm of Damien’s madness which Leila is very well acquainted with. And while little Amine or his friends may find Damien’s behavior cute, fun and cool at first, Leila is clear about what’s going on and is aware that this is just the beginning.
She knows what the last phase of Damien’s breakthroughs is and hopes that another forced hospitalization will not happen again, but this painter is starting to behave more and more distorted, manic and abnormal and endanger not only himself but also his loved ones. He managed to avoid “The Restless” by falling into the clichés encountered by numerous films about artists on the thin line between genius and madness. Perhaps most accurately, this poignant and touching drama could be described as an observation, a study of the life of a family whose member suffers from a serious mental illness and how they all cope with it. It is clear to us that in fact no one but Leila understands what happens to Damien when the initial phase of his breakthrough begins.
And while his manager, gallerists and friends initially even encourage him to squeeze the gas and finish the paintings for the upcoming exhibition as soon as possible, Leila is aware of where that pressure will take him. He knows very well what awaits them. In addition to Damien and Leila, he is also a great kid who plays seven-year-old Amine, a kid who is actually the biggest victim of his father’s diagnosis. A boy who will soon go through a phase from endless love for his father to mortal fear for his behavior. He rounded out Lafosse in “The Restless” the entire cycle of Damie’s condition and it was definitely one of the best and most realistic depictions of mental illness on film lately. A poignant, empathetic, emotional and extremely realistic drama with fully rounded characters and actors who managed to bring out all these complex and different situations perfectly. Rating 8/10.
MORE MOVIE REVIEWS: LE DISCOURS / THE SPEECH (2020, FRA) Movie review, plot, trailer