It's hard to think of a tool that's more effective at getting men to come together than the Grindr app. If you're a gay man, or if you're into a gay man, or if you've ever met someone who has fucked/will fuck/wants to fuck a gay man, you know Grindr. It did to gay sex what Amazon did to books.
While Grindr is prolific, it isn't revered. The "geosocial networking" app is spectacularly good at getting men off, but it also reduces the sticky business of casual encounters to two-dimensional torsos who jump from "hey" to "hole pic." In 4 Days in France, however, Grindr is treated with a spectacular reverence. Even the app's iconic notification sound is presented thoughtfully. God, French Grindr is so moody.
4 Days in France is the feature debut from writer-director Jérôme Reybaud. It focuses on Pierre (Pascal Cervo) and Paul (Arthur Igual), who are boyfriends. Or rather, they were boyfriends, because on the first day of 4 Days in France, Pierre unexpectedly leaves Paul—slipping off into the night and letting the familiar ping of Grindr be his compass. Yet Pierre's (ex)boyfriend isn't going to be left behind. Paul pursues Pierre by chasing his Grindr profile all over France. In America, this madcap dick detective narrative would be comical or creepy, but this is France—even cruising is served with a side of ennui.
Like its protagonist, the film is driven by random encounters with strangers. There is an elderly actress who gives unsolicited advice to young lovers, a coquettish hitchhiker who gets paid to sing French classics at old-folks homes, a pious neighbor who is driven mad by the gay men jizzing on her hillside. The only similarity between the characters is their flair for drama, but this meandering plot reinforces one of the film's central questions: Is there a purpose to Pierre's hunt?
In a memorable scene—and there are many—a strange, hostile woman confronts Pierre as he's hunting for dick in a field. It's her field, she tells him, and she could smell the flowers before the gays started blatantly sucking each other off in her bushes. Their acts are an affront to nature, she says, and now all she can smell is the stench of pigs. Why can't he find a nice person and settle down? Ironically, Pierre was unknowingly messaging Paul on Grindr before the woman interrupted him. Had Pierre not been deterred by her lecture on the unnatural state of homos, he and Paul would have come together and settled down, most likely in her bushes.
4 Days in France is a beautiful trip—directionless, sexy, and profound. The two-and-a-half-hour film continues to hold your attention even as it drifts. For writer-director Reybaud, cruising is not a deviance but a route to understanding. He shows that in a world where all information is accessible, silence from a stranger can be the greatest guide.