The Park ★★★½

Very French, in the same way that Linklater’s Before trilogy is, yet at the same time clearly influenced by the subtly encroaching dream logic of Apichatpong, this slim feature plays out as if it’s taking place out of time. Set over the course of a single day in a seemingly endless city park, it most explicitly recalls Tropical Malady in its indulgence in Edenic pleasures and its mid-film swerve into the metaphorical. Manivel’s imagery isn’t nearly as striking as that film’s yet he captures much of the same unhurried calmness that made that masterpiece so transporting. Scenes in which the characters stare at clouds and describe what they see or even those that merely show them traversing the park itself luxuriate in a lack of narrative anxiety. Early on I felt that there was something that wasn’t quite fully formed about Manivel’s sensibility, and I wasn’t sure whether to attribute that to an intentional critique of the youth of the protagonists or Manivel’s own willingness to fall back on arthouse clichés, but the second half of the film had me reconsidering, suggesting that the all-too-easy relaxed mood was a façade, working only to set up a looseness that is contrapuntally undone once night falls. A simple film, perhaps too indebted to what’s come before to achieve greatness, but beguiling all the same.