Pierre (Pascal Cervo) leaves Paris and goes into the French countryside. He’s left on a whim, wandering off into the unknown with only a vague sense of where he might end up. What he does have is a gay hook-up app, which pings wherever he goes with new opportunities. Indeed, Grindr almost becomes his compass.
As he travels around looking for sexual experiences with men old and young, he also meets various other people, including a singer who he takes to a care home for a performance, a bookseller who he used to know when she taught him English, and a woman he catches robbing him. He finds different types of connection with them, as well as with a young man he sleeps with who wants him to deliver a letter, a businessman who seems to both want sex and rejects it, and an older man where the promise of a hook-up soon develops into something different.
Back in Paris, Pierre’s lover Paul (Arthur Igual) doesn’t understand why his boyfriend has left, and so rents a car, using the same gay app to try to catch up to Pierre and figure out what’s happening.
The first thing to say about Four Days In France is that this is not a movie for everyone. Like its protagonist it’s a meandering movie that never signposts where it’s going. Things happen that on the surface seem disconnected to one another, and for long periods it doesn’t appear that all that much is happening at all. As a result – and at a lengthy 137 minutes – a lot of people will find it intensely boring.
Even those willing to delve under the surface a bit more might feel a bit of judicious editing wouldn’t have gone amiss. However, they will also likely find the whole thing rather intriguing. Four Days In France explores different types of connection, both fleeting and long-lasting, as well as those where there is a rekindling of a past relationship and where the only connection is a third person who isn’t present.
The film is also a kind of ode to cruising. Although aware of the potential for loneliness and how it can affect people’s desires, it finds a sense of freedom and relief in it. You get a sense that Pierre is enjoying a trip into a life without any baggage, where he can dip into someone’s existence – whether for sexual pleasure or not – and then leave without having to worry about the complexities of longer-term human relationships. The film also sees it as a way to explore desire, as even those people Pierre comes across who he isn’t wanting to have sex with have a latent longing (and often horniness). Indeed, at points the movie equates looking for sex – not necessarily finding it – as a misdirected way of searching for something else when they don’t what they really want.
The main narrative drive comes from whether Paul and Pierre will eventually find their way back to one another, both physically and emotionally. The movie questions whether they even should reunite, as at times Paul seems unsure why he’s following Pierre, other than because he feels he ought to. As with most of the other characters, there’s a sense of loneliness to both of them. They are people looking for connection, but in a peculiarly French way are also aware that they are alone in their own minds and that a feeling of shared experience with another person may be an illusion (it is telling that the most intense sexual experience of Pierre’s journey happens when he and his ‘partner’ are masturbating in different rooms). This is also shown in the movie’s predilection for soliloquy, where the female characters that Pierre comes across talk about their experiences in ways that suggest that despite the experiences of their life, they are still alone.
All this will come across as intensely tedious to some, but others will undoubtedly find that its meditative tone and the handsome French vistas have merit. There are plenty of interesting ideas in the movie and a surprising mix of both sadness and happiness pervading the whole film, as Pierre experiences his escape from the world, while his wanderings lay bare how solitary everyone is.
Overall Verdict: Both dull and interesting simultaneously, Four Days In France is the type of movie that some will find resonant while many others will just be bored and unable to see what the point of its meanderings are.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac