Something In The Air - Blu-ray Review

'Olivier Assayas revels in creating original stories that go places, try things, care about their characters and craft worlds we can believe in'

As trippy-dippy student-cum-activist Gilles (Clément Métayer) wanders around various European countries romancing a variety of young ladies, safe in his lack of knowledge about the ideologies he claims to support, you do start to wonder exactly how and why Something In The Air is so watchable.

The answer is of course writer/director Olivier Assayas who, like a handful of contemporaries (Jeff Nichols and Steven Soderbergh from the American crop) revels in creating original stories that go places, try things, care about their characters and craft worlds we can believe in. Gilles is, at times, an insufferable fool, a boy who has to have it pointed out to him by an older 'revolutionary' that he is reading the very propaganda he rails against, but he is also recognisably human, swept up in competing emotions about love, life, art and politics that it's easy to recognise in yourself even if you don't share his particular passions.

At times though, the film does tread a thin line between laughing at its young protagonists too much to make you wonder just who is in on the joke and how serious Assayas is being. It's part of the appeal of Assayas' film, itself concerned with on screen representations, that you wonder about its sympathies but it's also hard to connect with the try-hard crop of side-characters who talk about their 'contacts' and label the school security guards 'fascists'. It's impossible not to think of Rian Johnson's Brick, which had a much more sure-footed opinion of its young, somewhat pretentious protagonists.

The exceptions to that rule are two of the female leads and their characters: Lola Créton's Christine and Gilles' first love: Carole Combes' Laure. The former looks as though she is going to be dragged along as a typical love interest but when she, not Gilles, opts to part ways in the pursuit of cinematic activism you know it is in her that Assayas trusts. Laure, meanwhile, takes an extremely different turn, one that, if it wasn't so dark, would suggest Assayas at his most playful: questioning quite how much of what she sees is there or fake. A harsher lesson for and from her perhaps: one of teenage hedonism lacking substance.

The lovely cinematography by Eric Gautier as well, and Assayas' dedication to taking his story wherever its characters want it to go, are enough to see it through. Though not familiar with the period, this felt evocative to me of many recognisable places, events and people. Perhaps that is a larger part of the point than you might originally think. Is the Something In The Air perhaps not the face-value call to the barricades of the French teen revolution, but a severe case of the hormones and a pungent sense of adolescent growing up.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. I definitely got the sense that Assayas was more interested in the teens and their destination than any larger look at the counterculture. It's a gorgeous movie that works because the characters are so well-defined, especially Christine like you mention. It's a bit harder to connect with the main guy, but I think that's part of the point. He's stuck on a certain path and tries to be an "adult" yet lacks much conviction about anything. It's an intriguing film.

    1. Great comment Dan and yes: definitely agree. Like many films I think it's difficult to like the guy presented as the protagonist, but that doesn't mean he isn't interesting, especially seeing as the focus often drifts to the support. I've only seen two Assayas films and I thought there was loads going on in both. Eager to see more.