Releasing in the UK less than a year after Robin Campillo’s sterling 120 BPM, Christophe Honore’s Sorry Angel covers much of the same territory as that Cannes favourite. An epic gay love story set in and around Paris in 1993, against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis and the Act Up movement, it inevitably draws comparisons to Campillo’s film. Unfortunately, they’re rarely favourable. Sorry Angel struggles to keep up a consistent quality or tone, and stretches itself very thin with an unnecessarily overlong 130 minute runtime, padding out its story with world-building excursions that eventually serve to diminish the central romance.
Ostensibly following the relationship between 40-ish Parisian writer Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) and 22 year old suburban student Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), Sorry Angel actually keeps its leads separate for most of its story. Their lives outside of the romance are impressively well-drawn, but you never get a palpable sense of their importance to one another, so the heartfelt longing that defines the third act doesn’t ring true. Their first date is incredibly charming, witty and funny, giddy yet reserved, but Honore’s script never manages to recapture this high. In fact, there is some downright woeful dialogue, especially in the segments devoted to Jacques, the exposition explaining his life’s responsibilities wooden and conspicuous.
Lacoste and Deladonchamps both turn in charming performances (though they are outshone by a very funny Denis Podalydes as Jacques’s exasperated but caring neighbour Mathieu), and their chemistry is strong. It’s just a shame that they’re not given much of interest to do. For every magical moment there’s a tedious, drawn-out melodrama, and Sorry Angel runs far too long. A tighter, shorter edit would have been welcome, one that could make Arthur and Jacques’s affair feel more important or better balance the tone between heavy real-world tragedy and light, easy-going romcom.
Sex scenes have an odd formality to them, worlds away from the electric celebrations of love and life that featured in 120 BPM. It’s clearly a deliberate choice, but not one that particularly works, further slowing down proceedings when energy and urgency are already lacking. A punchy opening montage and perfectly curated early ‘90s pop soundtrack aside, Sorry Angel’s style isn’t much more compelling than its substance. It works better as a mixtape than a film.