The Movie Waffler French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - LOVE AFFAIRS | The Movie Waffler

French Film Festival UK 2021 Review - LOVE AFFAIRS

love affairs review
A group of interconnected characters become engaged in a variety of romantic affairs.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Emmanuel Mouret

Starring: Camélia Jordana, Niels Schneider, Émilie Dequenne, Vincent Macaigne, Jenna Thiam, Guillaume Gouix, Julia Piaton

love affairs poster

Has any country's cinema done so little to dispel national stereotypes as that of France? The cliché of the French being unable to embrace monogamy seems to fuel about a dozen new movies every year. With his latest film, Love Affairs, writer/director Emmanuel Mouret seems to be aiming to create an epic of infidelity, a sort of anti-Love Actually in which every single character is having it away with someone else behind their lover's back.

love affairs review

Mouret structures his film like a Matroska doll, each new protagonist sharing a bond with those we've already met, while subsequently pulling even more characters into the story. It begins with struggling writer (what else?) Maxime (Niels Schneider) arriving at the scenic home of his cousin Francois (Vincent Macaigne), who has been called away on business for a few days, leaving Maxime in the company of his pregnant girlfriend Daphne (Camélia Jordana).

Like the wraparound of an Amicus horror anthology, Maxime and Daphne relate their mutual stories of romance and heartbreak, broadening the film's scope to take in an expanding number of subplots in which men can't keep it in their pants and women behave in the most neurotic of fashion. Maxime tells of his affair with a married social climber, Victoire (Julia Piaton), which leads him into the arms of her sister, Sandra (Jenna Thiam), who is the lover of his best friend Gaspard (Guillaume Gouix).

love affairs review

Daphne's backstory sees her falling for the older filmmaker whose documentary she's editing, only for him to fall for her friend. While heartbroken, Daphne begins sleeping with Francois, whose wife Louise (Émilie Dequenne) is simultaneously having an affair with another man herself. Oh, and Gaspard begins seeing a friend of Francois' daughter behind Sandra's back.

Are you keeping up at the back? I imagine Mouret's wall of post-it notes must have resembled the office of an embattled detective trying to pin down a serial killer, such are the various interconnected subplots here. So reliant on spreading one issue, infidelity, across its entire roster of characters, Love Affairs veers close to resembling a parody of middlebrow French cinema, a feeling aided by the clichéd selection of classical tunes on the soundtrack and its characters' propensity for lazing around and thumbing through books (like so many of these films, none of these people seem burdened by the distractions of work).

love affairs review

What saves Love Affairs is the strength of its acting ensemble. Along with established figures like Macaigne and Dequenne, the movie gives a spotlight to relative newcomers Thiam and Jordana, both of whom come off as instant stars. Thiam is hilarious as the sort of woman who should have "trouble" tattooed on her forehead, while Jordana is an adorable presence as Daphne, the closest the film offers to a relatably down to earth character. The quality of acting across the board here sucks you into Mouret's film, adding some much needed weight to a relatively superficial drama. On reflection Love Affairs may seem like a weightless piece of French fluff, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't carried away in the moment by the romantic trials and tribulations of its attractive ensemble.

Love Affairs
 plays online at the French Film Festival UK from March 12th to 14th.

2021 movie reviews