The film Le Temps d’aimer opens with images of the Liberation, most of them new and striking. Women shorn, stripped, humiliated by virile men. One of them is sprayed with water from a fire hose in front of a satisfied crowd. The shift from reality to fiction occurs discreetly. The archives give way to a black and white sequence. A woman runs through the streets of a village in Brittany. Her belly is round and covered with a swastika that she is trying hard to erase.
1947. A first ellipse and Madeleine's (Anaïs Demoustier) hair has grown back. She is a waitress at the Beau Rivage hotel-restaurant. She raises her son, Daniel, alone. On a beach, she meets François, a Parisian archeology student, son of a good family. He limps slightly, the after-effect of poliomyelitis. They kiss in front of a sunrise. It looks like love. They get married. By settling in Paris, Madeleine flees shame and opprobrium. She takes with her a photograph of a handsome Wehrmacht soldier.
François finds Nicolas, a friend from the Sorbonne. Rather, it is Nicolas who finds him, prowling under his windows, pounding on the door at night. By way of explanation, Francis declared him insane, interned at Sainte-Anne. Nicolas sets fire to their apartment in their absence and makes himself prisoner. The couple and Daniel leave Paris for Châteauroux because Madeleine likes dance halls and an ad in the newspaper offers a manager position.
The Châteauroux of the film resembles the memories of Gérard Depardieu. American GIs, drunk on alcohol and women, haunt the city's bars and clubs. Daniel has grown up. The middle school student leaves for school when his parents go to bed. At night, the music prevents François from working on his thesis. Jazz on all floors. He helps Madeleine behind the bar. The couple falls under the spell of Jimmy, a GI cocktail expert. He quotes Jack London and hates the army. A three-way sex scene shatters the lies and the unsaid. François' homosexuality is as quickly repressed as it is revealed.
Back in Paris, time has passed. Daniel has a little sister and an inconsolable heartbreak. Madeleine does nothing all day. François, a professor at the Sorbonne, finds one of his students in a urinal on the banks of the Seine. Love stories end badly, even more so when shame gets involved.
Katell Quillévéré does not fear big feelings, romance, tragic destinies. She is inspired by the story of her grandmother, a long-kept family secret. She is eyeing the melos of Douglas Sirk, or Todd Haynes of Far From Heaven, adaptation of All That Heaven Allows by the same Douglas Sirk. The Time to Love ends on a train platform. The separation of lovers is replaced by that of a mother and her son. Departing trains always tear the heart.
The Note of Figaro: 3/4