The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE NATURE OF LOVE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE NATURE OF LOVE

The Nature of Love review
A middle-class professor begins an affair with a construction worker.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Monia Chokri

Starring: Magalie Lépine Blondea, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Francis-William Rhéaume

The Nature of Love poster

Has there ever been a more accurate summary of the libido and its unreasonable control over body, heart and mind than the deathless Kingsley Amis aphorism which likened having a hard cock to being chained to an idiot? As I write, a video of a screw (both in the sense of the participant and the action) in HMP Wandsworth is blowing up (both in the sense of, etc) on social media. I've seen it, you've seen it: of course we have, because sex drives us. Not only the urge to have it, but our (morbid?) curiosity about how other people have it, too. It is our defining motivator, what "makes us want to live" (to quote a character from The Nature of Love). From VHS then to Onlyfans now, the facilitation of pornography catalyses our technology, perpetuating the fascination. Yet, by virtue of necessity the hours upon available hours of pornography's easy fantasies only focus upon the act(s) itself, and it is a rare film which explores the ramifications of the little idiot and the wider ripples of its mindless splashes. The Nature of Love, Monia Chokri's pseudo-intellectual rom/com is such an exploration of desire, its grandstanding title perhaps a deliberate irony as Sophia (Magalie Lépine Blondeau) and Sylvain's (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) passionate affair is predicated upon a mutually hungry lust, not the other four-letter L word. The Nature of Love asks if there is a difference...

The Nature of Love review

The film I think I hate more than any other made is that Steve McQueen film where Michael Fassbender is a sex addict, and we're meant to think of him having zipless fucks with random women and then (OH GOD NO) cottaging in a gay club WITH A MAN is the worst thing in the world. This ridiculous notion that sex is shameful, and desire a facet to be overcome, not indulged. In The Nature of Love, Sophia's womanly desire for hunky workman Sylvain is acknowledged, and you love to see female sexual longing front and centre (the reason for the continued success of the godawful 50 Shades franchise - well thumbed copies of the books still always present in charity shops - is the canny catering towards a female sexuality within a cultural context where patriarchal representations of sex dominate, I reckon). We open with Sophia (hegemonically beautiful, aspirational) at a cookie cutter middle class supper party with her husband Xavier, wherein the polite conversation about issues (the death penalty, war) verges on the parodic. So bougie are this pair that they have an extremely covetable new wood cabin on a lake shore, upon which earthy contractor Sylvain (looks like misunderstood filmmaker Eli Roth, if that's your thing) is working.

The connection between Sophia and Sylvain is immediately electric (as is the chemistry between the two actors - the narrative's major selling point), and a stark contrast to her safe but dull life with her present partner. The appeal is couched in a sense of adventure, with Sylvain's rugged nature a foil to Sophia's apparently staid world of art galleries and university lectures. This guy - perpetually clad in a plaid jacket and trucker cap - advocates primal screams and rails against modern life: instead of communicating, we "eat, shop, go to the mall, buy a house, a chalet." Alright, Tyler Durden! The film's binary coding of artificial middle-class pleasures and the supposed authentic fun of the working class is a broad stroke The Nature of Love doesn’t really recover from, as, when the film continues to mine the theme during the affair, neither we or the film can really figure out if the film is playing with Chatterley/Mellor cliché or simply repeating it.

The Nature of Love review

To wit, an accordion heavy Chanson Française soundtrack connotes cheeky porn as Chokri treats us to montages of sex scenes, which, as well as being convincingly hot, develop both characters; along with more staid, soft focus date sequences (walks in the park, diner dinners). Her camera is love struck, zooming in and pulling back with the dreamy energy of Cupid's bow, expressing the dazed existence of her lusty heroine: amusingly, within the diegesis Sophia becomes that boring friend who has just embarked on a new relationship and thinks she's the only person who has ever had sex. Still, we are largely meant to identify with her, and especially when she argues with her fella about the working class. Xavier calls them "douchebags," while Sophia protests their "noble hearts" and "superior morals": cringe. Sylvain fits this projection like its his worn cap. Sophia compliments his lack of vocabulary and he does the sort of things which Xavier can't; like drive a Chevrolet, put up shelves, and, in a moment where I actively began to dislike the film, use a gun to hunt animals. Big fucking man, is it? Is this what female heterosexual fantasy entails?!

The Nature of Love review

Despite The Nature of Love's pretensions towards social satire, its depiction of romance and vivid representations of sex are seductively escapist, a Mills and Boon index of aspiration. The film excels when essaying the giddy ups and downs of a fling, and the compellingly related agony of when the supply of what fuels you gets cut off. But even this sequence is a prelude to rabidly enacted make up sex, and more lux imagery. We end abruptly, with a chamber farce scene which intones that this sort of relationship would never really work, a revealingly conservative denouement which we are positioned to agree with via its constructed comic context. Maybe hot sex isn't the most essential opportunity life has to offer after all, the plot (which has hitherto indulged in the visual pleasures of two objectively attractive people going at it throughout) ultimately (and incorrectly) discloses. Research reveals that the film's original French title translates to "Simple as Sylvain", which is perhaps a more accurate appellation both as a descriptor of the narrative and an indicator of its unpalatable class ideologies. Its lip service towards social caricature doesn't marry with the ultimately regressive message of The Nature of Love, which, to use a metaphor in keeping with the film's glorious leitmotif of oral sex, tries to have its fanny and eat it.

The Nature of Love is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 5th.

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