Bernard (Gérard Depardieu) and Catherine (Fanny Ardant) have been happily married for many years when Catherine discovers that Bernard has been cheating on her. As a form of revenge, or perhaps for more complex reasons of her own, she hires a prostitute (Emmanuelle Béart) to seduce her husband under the name Nathalie – posing as a 'regular girl' – and report back to her on what takes place.
Star power is abundant in the latest French film to get a release here, it's Nathalie starring Gerard Depardieu, Fanny Ardant and the much-admired Emmanuelle Beart.
As we look through the windows of a sophisticated party we see Catherine, Fanny Ardant, being charming to her guests. We learn that this is a surprise birthday party for her husband Bernard, Gerard Depardieu, who unfortunately rings in to say he missed his plane in Zurich and won't be home that night. Next day, when Catherine listens to the messages on his mobile phone, she finds out he was having sex with an unknown woman. When she confronts him, he dismisses his infidelity as not meaning anything, but she knows her marriage is dying. In an attempt to understand what Bernard is seeking, she employs a prostitute Marlene, Emmanuelle Beart, to seduce her husband and tell her the details of their encounters.
Co-written and directed by Anne Fontaine, Nathalie, the pseudonym for Marlene as she seduces Bernard – focuses very much on the relationship between the two women. Ardent with her beautiful, mournful eyes brings a truth to Catherine, who's an intelligent, questing woman. Beart is as ever mesmerising on screen. Depardieu in a very restrained mode occupies less of the screen than you would expect. Perhaps you're a couple of steps ahead of the film's four screenwriters but, nevertheless, the elusiveness of motive in both women is intriguing. The fact that compassion is at the heart of the intent of this film, for all the characters, made it a really rewarding experience, despite its slight tendency to tediousness and self-conscious melancholy.