It's not hard to see why Second Chances happens to be one of the biggest romantic comedies for the French last year, a genre that doesn't seem to buckle under cliches, when all the necessary ingredients for it to succeed get pumped in, from charismatic leads, a simple plot peppered with quirky incidents and a host of supporting characters breathing life to subplots, with a contemporary soundtrack of pop songs and ballads accentuating the mood from saccharine sweetness to the reflection of a hurt soul by a series of events beyond one's control.
Francois-Xavier Demaison plays Julien, a highly successful relationship counsellor blessed with the gift of resolving any fire-cracking situation amongst couples. We begin the film with his self-exile in a remote monastery, where he relates to us the flip side of his talent, which is counter-balanced with a string of disastrous short lived relationships of his own with the opposite sex. It seemed that every single one of his ex girlfriends decided to leave him because for some inexplicable reason they will all become Calamity Jane, and being warded in a hospital is such a norm that Julien develops a friendship with one of the resident doctors Vincent (Thomas N'Gijol).
But temptation to begin another relationship comes in the form of Johanna (Virginie Efira), a beautiful blonde who randomly catalyzes a friendship during a wedding reception she accidentally gatecrashed, culminating in a one night stand that sealed a steady relationship with Julien. And it naturally came with a photograph montage of the happy times they spend together, complete with cheeky snapshots of the accidents that happen to befall her. When Julien reveals the truth about his past relationships and the dangers that are looming over the horizon, Johanna brushes it off, and one would think they're set for life, but life is never easy, it comes with roadblocks, and challenges that will test the most steely of willpower and determination.
Director Nicholas Cuche kept things going at a very breezy pace, with comedy all well timed and delivered with natural precision by the cast, never feeling forced save for some deliberately over the top moments for some to keep in character. The charisma of the leads will make you root for them to stay together despite the odds staking up against them in the form of a series of bad luck, and having a customer's well to do, good looking son also falling for Johanna, turning up the heat of the competition. While Francois-Xavier Demaison shone with his hang dog puppy demeanour who just cannot believe, and has to resign to his lack of luck, it was Virginie Efira who proved to be more than a good looking host, showcasing her knack for acting with a flair for physical comedy when it's called for.
And when Second Chances looked set to become one lightweight romantic comedy, the final act, hinged around a sudden realization, will hit you. Hard. And made this film a winner. It's about how we usually are quick to jump to conclusions especially when the going is bad, and you'd realize just how true that is especially when it's like a default human trait that we succumb to from time to time. It's easy to blame others for things that don't go our way, and to quickly claim credit for times when they do, forgetting about the backend efforts already laid out and in place for things to happen successfully. Highly recommended!