When Gabriel and Emilie meet by chance, he offers her a ride, and they spend the evening talking, laughing and getting along famously. At the end of the night, Emilie declines Gabriel's offer of "a kiss without consequences". Emilie admonishes him that the kiss could have unexpected consequences, and tells him a story, unfolding in flashbacks, about the impossibility of indulging your desires without affecting someone else's life.
This twisty romantic comedy is sort of like a French When Harry Met Sally. In other words it considers the tricky and potentially embarrassing territory where platonic love crosses over into fleshy romance.
The film is structured around an elaborate story within a story. Gabriel and Emilie meet and are immediately attracted to each other. But when Gabriel attempts to follow through his amorous instincts with a kiss, Emilie cautions him with a tale of two friends who "took the relationship one step further".
The Gabriel/Emilie story is really a framing device for the goofy romantic fumblings of Nicolas (Emmanuel Mouret) and his best friend, Judith (Virginie Ledoyan) as they stumble from one clumsy romantic encounter to the next.
Director, actor and screenwriter Emmanuel Mouret sets the tone somewhere between mid-career Woody Allen and the quietly frantic contemporary French style of screen comedy. With its slapstick and verbose characters, mixed messages and sudden reversals of fortune for the characters and a sudden interest in complex plotting coming in to the second half, Shall We Kiss? is a curious, amusing experience. Mouret has the actors pitch their performances in a naïve, almost childish way and it gives the film a certain fairytale quality (which suggests with out any heavy handedness that that Emilie’s story about Nicolas/Judith is indeed just a story).
Still, there’s no visual gimmickry or suggestion of fantasy. Mouret shoots the actors in soft pastels in beautiful rooms in carefully composed frames seemingly designed to emphasise the awkward emotion of the characters. And it’s a nice little irony; such human frailty in settings that promise nothing less than assurance and comfort.