At 56, Bouli Lanners finally gave in to feelings. Leaving aside the deadpan humor that marked his previous films (Eldorado, in 2008; The Giants, in 2011; The First, the Last, in 2016), the actor and director allowed himself his first major story of love. A sweet and urgent story – one of those that we no longer expect and for which there is little time left. To do this, he went to Scotland, and more precisely to the Isle of Lewis, a waterlogged, twilight place, which inspired the director to make his most beautiful film.

The characters consist of a handful of men and women, who all know each other, meet at mass and in pubs. Phil (Bouli Lanners) never sets foot there. He goes to pubs, but in moderation. Health problems oblige. Here, Phil is in the land of adoption. Coming from Belgium, he settled in this remote corner that suited him well, found a job on the farm of old Angus (Julian Glover), and never moved again. We leave him alone, that’s all he asks.

Amnesia parenthesis

But one fine day, the man with a robust figure and a body tattooed all over, collapsed, the victim of a stroke. It’s not the first, nor the last, they warn him at the hospital. This time again, he escaped without any after-effects, except for temporary amnesia which, doctors predict, should fade within a few weeks. You just have to be patient. And above all careful, which is what his advisor, Angus’ daughter, Millie (Michelle Fairley), is responsible for ensuring.

After fifty, dressed and hatted in gray, discreet, not very talkative, Millie has always lived alone, and no one knows if this woman is even capable of love. Her coldness has earned her the nickname “the ice queen” from the locals.

This shows the restraint, the hindrance, the embarrassment which accompany the first steps towards each other of these two, to what extent the meeting, suspended in the embarrassment of the characters, is moving. Phil and Millie, no longer young, suddenly returned to their adolescent state, know each other, of course, but have never really spoken. At least we think so, before Millie spills the beans and claims that, before the accident, they were lovers.

Phil doesn’t remember it, any more than the rest. The revelation disturbs him, brings his consent to a first embrace. In this short amnesiac parenthesis then comes a love story that Bouli Lanners films with infinite delicacy and grace.

In an economy of words, a rigor bathed in sweet melancholy, the story frees itself from the heartbreaks of passion and the anguish of solitude. Held at this point of balance, to which Bouli Lanners and Michelle Fairley lend an elegant modesty, The Shadow of a Lie makes the light sparkle, something resembling the joy of living.