‘The Restless’ Review: The Painful Cycles of Mental Illness

Joachim Lafosse’s latest film, “The Restless,” makes a valiant effort to depict the toll that bipolar disorder can take on people and their loved ones. We’re introduced to Damien (Damien Bonnard), a painter, in the middle of a manic episode on vacation with his family; while gently teaching his young son, Amine (Gabriel Merz Chammah), how to steer a motorboat, Damien suddenly leaps into the water for a swim, telling Amine to take over driving. From there, it’s one incident after another as Damien behaves erratically at best and dangerously at worst, testing the patience of his wife, Leïla (Leïla Bekhti), as she struggles to find a suitable treatment for his illness.

Bonnard and Bekhti both ground their performances in a knowing realism. Together with Lafosse’s intimate direction and the film’s lack of a score, this helps “The Restless” avoid any mawkishness that might have come from its premise. The problem, unfortunately, lies in the same circular patterns of behavior that the film aims to shed light on. We hardly get a glimpse of Damien outside of his mania, making it difficult to characterize the person underneath the disorder. While those familiar with the condition may relate to the repetitive destructiveness of his actions, it ultimately makes for a paper-thin narrative, one that has to fill out its two-hour running time with predictable shouting matches and dramatic beats. Lafosse’s empathy as a director is admirable, but “The Restless” falls short of putting a compelling story to film.

The Restless
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 57 minutes. Watch on Film Movement Plus.

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