‘The Nature of Love’ Review: Monia Chokri’s Witty Adultery Comedy

Monia Chokri’s “The Nature of Love” opens by introducing us to 40-year-old philosophy professor Sophia (Magalie Lépine Blondeau) and her husband Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume), as they get pleasure from a cocktail party with pals. Said pals (considered one of whom is performed by the director) are equally middle-class progressive varieties with good properties and cozy lives; Sophia’s job specifically permits a strand of metatextual self-commentary in an in any other case predominantly broad and horny comedy. It is, in fact, a cast-iron rule of cinema that if a movie opens with a middle-class banquet, you’re about to see any individual’s bourgeois certainties undermined, and Chokri doesn’t disappoint.

On the drive dwelling, Sophia and Xavier gossip about their pals’ love lives. Supposedly one of many different {couples} has intercourse three or 4 instances every week, but additionally fights always. Xavier is of the opinion {that a} peaceable however sexless life is preferable, which tells us every thing we have to know at that time about his and Sophia’s comfortable-as-a-coma marriage, and units the stage for her subsequent scorching affair with rough-and-ready Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), a smoking sizzling handyman employed to renovate the couple’s weekend dwelling by the lake.

The movie is impeccably forged. As Sophia, Magalie Lépine Blondeau (whom Chokri first directed ten years in the past in her massively profitable brief “An Extraordinary Person) is great, gifted with nice comedian timing and a specific knack for telegraphing that sense of somebody who is aware of they’re making an enormous mistake, however are compelled to go forward and make it anyway. That’s helpful, since it’s maybe the character’s defining trait. 

But it’s onerous to think about Blondeau’s function working in addition to it does with out the appropriate actor as Sylvain, the sort of man whose compulsive sexual attraction is sufficient, by itself, to swamp each different extra cautious intuition. Luckily, Cardinal has kind right here, having beforehand sizzled in Xavier Dolan’s “Tom at the Farm,” because the burly agricultural man’s man to Dolan’s trendy metropolis boy. Call it display presence, magnetism, charisma — Cardinal has it.

Another Dolan collaborator (alongside Chokri herself, who had considered one of her greatest onscreen roles within the Québecois auteur’s “Heartbeats”) having a ball right here is cinematographer André Turpin: In “The Nature of Love,” the digicam is an lively, antic presence, keen on darting zooms that lend proceedings an ironic gloss of Nineteen Eighties beer commercials, to thoroughly deliberate-feeling impact. Playful, purposeful occlusion of sections of a body by way of strategically positioned objects — automotive mirrors blocking faces from view, and so forth — is each straightforwardly humorous and a reminder of different restricted views. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it aesthetic that verges on OTT however lands simply the appropriate facet of kitsch.

Aesthetics additionally play into the movie’s depiction of sophistication distinction, which is commonly ramped as much as borderline cartoonish impact, in a manner that matches each the larger-than-life camerawork and the characters’ huge feelings. Wardrobe performs its half right here: when Sophia first falls for Sylvain, he’s rugged within the sort of plaid shirts beloved of middle-class hipsters within the 2010s. That helps code him as acceptable for her — she’s a snob — in a manner that some his later makes an attempt at smartening up signally fail to do.

Female mid-life crises usually are not explored on this mode of storytelling as typically their male counterpart: While the tragedy of the girl who f—s round and finds out is a mainstay of loads of nice literature and cinema, the comedic variations are inclined to concentrate on male love rats. Perhaps this is because of longstanding cultural discomfort with feminine infidelity: Historically, if an untrue girl was going to be the lead character, every thing needed to be handled with a sure gravity. “The Nature of Love” refreshingly facilities the feminine adulterer’s expertise, in a richly comedian mode.

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