Before learning anything about Catherine de Léan and Dimitri Storoge in the French-Canadian drama Nuit #1, the audience watches them have sex. They don’t know each other much better, having met at a rave through which the camera pans in slow motion during the opening credits; as they enthusiastically grapple their way through the doorway of Storoge’s apartment, he pulls back for a second to ask her name. The debut feature from writer-director Anne Émond, Nuit #1 has a deliberately provocative structure in mind. It opens with this non-couple engaging in 15 minutes of an explicit, essentially real-time simulated hookup, and the title card doesn’t appear until they’re done.
In both its setup and its theme, Nuit #1 hopes to explore what it means to skip social precedents in order to go straight to something intimate, and whether those in-between stages can be revisited afterward. The film is clumsily schematic in its approach—first comes all the sex, then all the talking—though while it engages its examination of one-night stands in an inelegantly obvious fashion, it does find some instances of emotional clarity. Both characters are unhappy, and while they might not be each other’s solutions to this state, the unplanned moments of openness they manage in the early hours of the morning obviously do these two desolate people some good.
Nuit #1 feels theatrical in its conception, not just because the characters are primarily confined to Storoge’s shabby home, but because they each tend to speak in long, heightened monologues while the other listens. This sometimes pays off, as when after guilting de Léan into staying for the night after catching her sneaking out, Storoge is leveled by her confession that she wishes he would tell her he felt some once-in-a-lifetime connection to her. He responds to this alarming display of vulnerability by saying he’s sleepy and proceeding to ignore her. But while the two aren’t simply the casual-sex cautionary tales of neediness and jerkiness they first appear to be, their internal lives still feel stagey and contrived after they’re revealed. Courageous performances from the leads, who have to bear a lot, both emotionally and physically, still can’t transform their characters into more than just symbols for contemporary urban loneliness.