Despite its creative and historical trappings, "Les Enfants du Siècle" is an account of the obsessive, doomed love that can strike uninventive individuals in any period. But this story specifically concerns the true story of Baroness Dudevant (Juliette Binoche), who achieved literary fame under the pseudonym George Sand, and Alfred de Musset (Benoît Magimel), who was not just the most gifted poet of his generation but also the leader of a pack of rakes who, post-Napoleon, had given up on idealism and hope, and opted instead for the slippery slope of booze, drugs, and cynicism.
Director Diane Kurys, best known for the Oscar-nominated "Entre Nous", homes in on the detail necessary for a given sense of time and place (Paris, 1832) and, noted for her ease with actors, extracts layers of emotion from both Binoche and Magimel. Whether they are being charming or angst-ridden, they easily fill their scenes and, fine judges both, never overcook the hysteria. Given that she is decent, sensitive, and optimistic, and he loutish, dissolute, and in turmoil, both characters prove that - when it comes to art - differing personalities can create.
The super-charged moments extend beyond their troubled love and include a particularly startling scene in which de Musset skewers his brother's hand with a fork. In its less emotional stretches, "Les Enfants du Siècle" tends towards filmed conversation and staginess, during which your eyes wander around the lovely interiors.