Melvil Poupaud masterfully captures the chilling dichotomy that is typical of many perpetrators of coercive control in Valérie Donzelli’s Just The Two of Us (L’Amour et les Forêts). In the highly anticipated film adaptation of the Éric Reinhardt novel, he portrays Grégoire Lamoureux, a character who evokes the duality of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
At the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, Poupaud admitted that he found Grégoire despicable and underscored that these kinds of abusers often use a benign Mr. Nice Guy to camouflage their aggression.
“I really wanted to create a bastard on screen. Neat and tidy, dry, tense. A man of peaceful appearance but profoundly dark on the inside.”
Poupaud’s keen observations shed light on a disturbing reality of coercive control: the perpetrators’ ability to groom entire social circles, cloaked in a facade of kindness.
Behind the charming demeanor of manipulators lies a deep-rooted desire to exploit and subjugate those closest to them, using control as a means to regulate their toxic feelings of shame. Perpetrators of this kind of aggression master the art of projecting an image of amiability to family, friends, and acquaintances, creating an illusion that they could never resort to violence. Their manipulation extends outside of their intimate relationships as they deftly accumulate social capital, garnering unwavering devotion from those around them. Once their unassailable reputation is established, the harrowing accounts of their victims often fall on deaf ears.
Just The Two of Us (L’Amour et les Forêts) tells the story of Grégoire (Poupaud) and Blanche (Virginie Efira) whose whirlwind romance sees them move in together, fall pregnant, and marry at the breathtaking pace that is typical many coercive and controlling relationships. As they couple moves through the cycle of abusive power and control, Grégoire isolates Blanche from her family and friends, using the power imbalance in the relationship to create an ecosystem in which he can act out his aggression with impunity.
Just The Two of Us (L’Amour et les Forêts) is currently playing in theaters.