Thomas In Love (thomas Est Amoureux)

on September 10, 2000 by Michael Tunison
   The wilder possibilities of sex and romance in the cyber age get the satirical sci-fi treatment in "Thomas in Love," an entertaining Belgian import about dating in the year 2020. Director Pierre-Paul Renders' lively debut feature may suffer from the occasional narrative system error, but its bold style and cheeky visual flourishes make this idiosyncratic look at near-future lonely-hearts worth plugging into.

   Told completely from the perspective of the unseen title character's computer screen, this difficult-to-categorize work follows the efforts of the agoraphobic recluse Thomas (voiced by Benoît Verhaert) to arrange fulfilling female companionship that won't require him to leave his high-tech apartment. In a series of offbeat videoconferencing sessions, he connects with an open-minded potential cyber-mate (Magali Pinglaut), a video sex worker with a heart of gold (Aylin Yay), an on-line psychologist (Frédéric Topart) and, most humorously, a busty interactive "sextoon" programmed to satisfy his private desires.

   Between the film's garishly colored backdrops, fanciful costumes and clever video inserts, Renders and his creative design team create a stylized future world that is both funny and weirdly believable. By rapidly cutting between different types of on-screen interactions, the film deftly pulls off the trick of telling its entire story from the protagonist's first-person point of view, a considerable challenge rarely even attempted in the movies (the most famous try is probably the less-than-successful 1946 adaptation of Raymond Chandler's "The Lady in the Lake"). Only the fact that Renders and screenwriter Philippe Blasband run out of surprising ways to twist the concept as they draw closer to the predictable ending keeps "Thomas" from being a complete turn-on. Starring Benoît Verhaert, Aylin Yay, Magali Pinglault, Micheline Hardy, Alexandre von Sivers and Frédéric Topart. Directed by Pierre-Paul Renders. Written by Philippe Blasband. Produced by Diana Elbaum. An IFC release. Science fiction/comedy. French-language; subtitled. Not yet rated. Running time: 92 min

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