Love Me if You Dare, Yann Samuell's restless debut feature, begins beguilingly, develops into an intriguing but muddled midsection, and finally arrives at a frustrating split resolution which breaks its own fabulist rules and redefines ambiguity as a lack of narrative commitment. Taken in realistic terms, the entirety of Love Me if You Dare would play as insufferably precious and unrealistic; Samuell obviously intends his story to be an allegory about fiery, mad-love relationships, but even an allegory must come to a sensible and clear resolution.
Samuell introduces us to his lovers, Julien and Sophie, as "problem" children who dodge their troubles by playing their own private game (scored to endless iterations of "La Vie En Rose"). Passing a merry-go-round-styled tin between each other, the two ask each other, "Are you game?" and set into motion outrageous dares. The first leg takes the kids through harmless childhood games (like "I'll Show You Mine, You Show Me Yours") and rattling tragedy (the death of a parent); the second leg finds the two tripping through young-adult education, complete with juvenile jealousies regarding rival suitors; the third and most hurtful stretch observes adult volleys, marital and mortal alike. As rapidly aging adults, the lovers ponder a life where the speedometer goes up to 210, but the car never goes over 60. Playing it safe will obviously never do.
At times, the film (which recalls the CGI-ridden Gallic hyperstylization of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie) achieves a transcendent romanticism, but mostly the middle-classy shitstorms of the "heroes" (played in adult stages by Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard) come off as whiny, self-centered, and grandiose. This approach could have worked in the sharper teeth of an expert storyteller, but Samuell sees love as being as indispensibly glorious as it is maddeningly divisive: you only hurt the one you love, but ain't love grand? Finally, Samuell decides that it's all good: love is love, eternally, even if it hurts like hell on earth. Unfortunately, the alternate-reality fork in the road smudges the already broadly-drawn lines of the fable and numbs the story's bite like a shot of novocaine.