The Nature of Love Review



The Nature of Love Review

Summary

  • The Nature of Love
    explores binaries like passion vs. companionship, beauty vs. intelligence, and realism vs. fantasy in relationships.
  • The film’s intense emotional scenes and stylistic choices create a dream-like atmosphere, but the extreme thematic binaries may not be convincing.
  • The impressive visual style and creative efforts enhance the film’s world, but the overemphasis on symbolism and exaggeration detract from the overall experience.

The Nature of Love is a movie obsessed with binaries. From short-lived passion vs enduring companionship to beauty vs intelligence, and sophistication vs messiness, every major theme in the narrative has its opposition. The story itself centers around Sophia (Magalie Lépine Blondeau), a woman whose stable life is complicated when she meets Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), and their connection threatens her established long-term relationship.

The film’s primary concern is to address the age-old question of whether fidelity and commitment are realistic. By building layers of contrast at each turn, we are constantly asked to pick sides and make definitive decisions. While this is different from the way real life works, which is full of nuance, this world of binary oppositions seeks to categorize every experience into boxes. This makes for an interesting, if not realistic, viewing experience. Depending on how much you value realism, it can be an equally thought-provoking and frustrating watch.

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The Nature of Love

3/5

University professor Sophia has a comfortable life and a stable but unexciting marriage to Xavier. That is upended when she meets and is attracted to Sylvain, a blue-collar construction contractor whom the couple hires to renovate their summer home. Sophia questions her own values after abandoning herself to her great romantic impulses.

Release Date July 5, 2024

Director Monia Chokri

Cast Magalie Lépine-Blondeau , Pierre-Yves Cardinal , Monia Chokri , Francis-William Rhéaume , Steve Laplante , Marie-Ginette Guay , Micheline Lanctôt , Guillaume Laurin , Linda Sorgini

Runtime 1h 50m

Writers Monia Chokri

Studio(s) Metafilms , Ciné+ , Cinémage 17 , MK Films , Arte Cofinova 19

Distributor(s) MK2 Films , Music Box Films

Pros

  • A steamy romance movie with a bold theme: can romantic passion last?
  • Monia Chokri and her crew create some gorgeous sets, shots, and vibes.

Cons

  • The Nature of Love is too binary and black-and-white with its themes and narrative.
  • A lot of the stylistic choices are very unsubtle and painfully on-the-nose.

Expand

As the nucleus of this story, Sophia is a grounding presence despite her tumultuous life. She’s a sophisticated 40-year-old teacher who, at first, has immense stability. However, when Sylvain, the contractor working on her holiday cabin, enters her life, it all changes as she dives into a passionate affair. Unsurprisingly, he is rather different from her — he works with his hands, lives in the country, and doesn’t always use the right words. A great deal of emphasis is placed on their differences, whether they work in their favor or not.

Sophia is forced to adjust to a new life with higher highs and lower lows than what she’s used to, as she and Sylvain enjoy intense affectionate periods and equally intense arguments and separations. He brings out the animalistic, rowdy, messy parts of her that lay dormant in her previous 10-year relationship. Meanwhile, she attempts to tame his way of dressing and speaking in order to make him fit into her world. Unfortunately for her, Sylvain is much more successful in his efforts.

As a result of the intensity of emotions on display in combination with stylistic choices (to be discussed later), The Nature of Love plays out like the fantasy one might have when stuck in a monotonous marriage. By reducing the characters to archetypes, it becomes easier to bend them to your will. Once again, it’s not what many would describe as realistic, but it does serve a dream-like purpose of allowing viewers to project their own lives onto the template before them.

1:52

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The Nature of Love’s Extreme Thematic Binaries

Given that Sophia and Sylvain’s relationship is so prominent in the narrative, the binaries that come with it are the most significant of the lot. Namely, beauty vs intelligence (especially when it comes to class divides) and passion vs companionship. There is a whole lot of emphasis placed on the intelligence-to-beauty ratio of most of the women in this story, and it’s a knife that cuts both ways. For example, there is a large helping of scorn directed at the women who are more appearance-focused, i.e. wearing a lot of makeup, but, in return, someone tells Sophia, “At least for once [Sylvain’s] not with a sex symbol.”

Just as Sophia isn’t deemed as physically attractive as Sylvain’s previous partners, he doesn’t live up to the intellectual standards of her world. He uses slang, references artists Sophia considers low-brow, and often dresses in gaudy colors that contrast with her typical beige and brown. However, for him, his appearance is considered good enough that his other qualities don’t matter. When he attends a dinner party with Sophia’s friends in an electric blue shirt, one says to her that it doesn’t matter because he’s so attractive.

It’s these differences between the pair that make their relationship so fiery. Everything is always at an extreme with them, whether it’s love or hate. This isn’t the first time a movie has depicted a relationship between individuals of different social classes, and it won’t be the last, but, unfortunately, it’s not the most convincing. It’s hard to understand why Sophia has such a problem with Sylvain’s way of speaking, which seems really rather normal. This could be an issue of the translation from French to English not conveying the intricacies of his speech, but as it stands, it’s certainly confusing.

Beyond the conflict between Sophia and Sylvain not being wholly convincing, this idea that only ugly people can be clever and all attractive people are stupid and low class isn’t doing the story any favors. As a result of the options being presented as polar opposites with no scale in between, which serves its purpose, an issue is created. While we don’t have to agree with what the characters think and say, the movie wouldn’t exist without its binary framework. Therefore, we have to be able to buy into it to some degree in order to make sense of what we’re seeing.

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Impressive Visual Style

Now, a moment of appreciation must be given to those behind the camera for the beautiful visuals in The Nature of Love. To name a few of the creatives at work, we have the writer and director Monia Chokri, cinematographer André Turpin, and production designer Colombe Raby. These creatives work together (along with many others) to create a rich, unique, and inviting world. The visuals feel like a much-needed blanket to combat the Canadian winter in which the story takes place, with beautiful landscapes, warm color grading, and impeccably dressed sets. With these at play, it’s not hard to understand why Sophia dives into life with Sylvain.

On the downside of the movie’s visual style, there are several moments in which the imagery and symbolism feel overblown. From the huge divide between Sophia and her husband in their separate beds early on to Sophia buying a leash for herself and Sylvain to use in the bedroom, these things often feel heavy-handed and not much different from overly expositional dialogue. Sometimes, on-the-nose imagery can work, but here, it felt like a step too far.

1:48

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This drama has some great things going for it but is consistently let down by the exaggeration and extremity of its themes, ideas, and imagery. At every turn, things are taken a step too far — instead of letting the audience do some of the legwork, everything is spoon-fed to us. Due to this issue, it feels as though the feature could have worked better as a short, in which the brief timeframe means that you have to go hard or go home in order to get your point across.

Chokri’s film seeks fundamental truths about love but does so in a way that feels detached from real life. At its best, it’s frustrating and thought-provoking, but at its worst, it’s just plain frustrating. The Nature of Love is a conflicted movie. And ultimately, conflict is what it’s all about, but that doesn’t necessarily make for the most fulfilling viewing experience.

From Music Box Films, The Nature of Love opens in New York on Friday, July 5 at the IFC Center and in Los Angeles on July 12 at Laemmle Royal, followed by a national expansion.

You can view the original article HERE.

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