Review: Love Affair(s)
- CANNES 2020: Emmanuel Mouret trials and skilfully succeeds at a new recipe for decrypting the complexity of the love choices we make, a very subtle exploration awarded the Official Selection Label
"There’s no one right way, there’s a whole number of them and you can’t take all of them at the same time". Games of love and of luck, sentimental back-and-forths with their inevitable trains of desire, pleasure, secrets and struggles to resist temptation, moral demands, guilt, inhibitions and impulses… These are territories which have always fascinated Emmanuel Mouret and which the French filmmaker has always explored in his highly personal, wholesome style, flirting with comedy while nurturing an intellectually stimulating tone, and characterised by ups and downs but refraining from dramatization of sometimes serious subjects. It’s a sense of balance which heightens in line with the director’s artistic maturity, giving rise to highly sophisticated storylines and some wonderful roles for his chosen actors, as is the case in the brilliant Love Affair(s) [+see also:
film profile], awarded the Cannes 73 Official Selection Label and unveiled at the Online Marché du Film.
The director has centred this new journey to the complicated land of love around Daphné (Camélia Jordana) and Maxime (Nils Schneider). The former lives with François (Vincent Macaigne), who’s cousin to the latter. Despite not knowing one another, the two protagonists must spend one or two days of their holiday together sharing their sentimental misadventures, which the film delves into by way of flashbacks.
Maxime’s story revolves around Sandra (Jeanna Thiam), a girl he loved platonically, lost contact with and comes back into contact with as a result of an affair with her sister (Julia Piaton), a married woman on the verge of emigrating. Despite his secretly confused feelings for Sandra, Maxime nevertheless leaves the way clear for his best friend Gaspard (Guillaume Gouix) who’s going out with her, until the new couple suggest that Maxime moves in with them ("I knew it was a bad idea"). And "what was always going to happen, happened", along with a raft of other surprises…
For her part, Daphné looks back at how she met François, who burst into her world just as her life had been turned upside down by a failed relationship. "He wasn’t my type of man at all. I still ask myself why I invited him over", she reminisces. Almost in spite of herself ("it’s best we don’t see one another again. I don’t want to be a married man’s mistress"), Daphné gradually becomes attached to François, who soon finds himself liberated from married life (and from a world of lies) by his wife Louise (Émilie Dequenne) who leaves him for someone else. But none of it is quite as simple as it seems. And as they exchange their own stories on the subject, Maxime and Daphné enter into the spiral themselves…
A highly amusing form of vaudeville is incorporated into the film’s dissection of sentimental contradictions, offering us a reflection on the definition(s) and rules (if there are any) of love: excess and self-sacrifice? A search for identity and an instinct to claim ownership? Imitation? A simple chain of circumstances? Shared commitment values or moments of levity? Love Affair(s) artfully immerses itself into this interlacing of influences with Olympian ease, striking an ideal balance between subtle humour and universal emotions.
(Translated from French)
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