In Just a Sigh, a Day-Long European Liaison Held Up By Its Stars


Just a Sigh bears an evocative English title, and one that proves more appropriate than the original French — Le temps de l’aventure, or The Time of Adventure.

Perhaps the sigh suggests contentment, as in a reflex of post-coital release, or perhaps it suggests resignation, like a gesture of exasperated defeat. Alix (Emmanuelle Devos) does both. Her time of adventure, such as it is, begins and ends with a spontaneous afternoon tryst, an opportunity she seizes after eyeing a handsome Irishman (Gabriel Byrne) on a Paris-bound train.

This sort of fleeting European rendezvous belongs to a rich cinematic tradition reaching from Brief Encounter to Before Sunrise. Just a Sigh‘s day-long liaison sustains interest largely for the appeal of Devos and Byrne, its accomplished leads — they share what is known in the rom-com lexicon as “chemistry,” and this quality invigorates their time together, in bed and out.

The problem is that their affair, however robust in the moment, has been otherwise meagerly adorned: The interiors of our likeable lovers have not been furnished substantially enough to suggest real lives beyond the hotel walls. It’s hardly surprising that Alix, leaving Byrne behind, should so quickly gravitate toward him once more; we’re no less eager to see their passion recapitulated, particularly given how dull the film becomes when they’re apart.

That suggests a sigh’s third meaning: the universal sign of impatience.