Love Affairs – French Film Festival UK March 2021 Edition – Film Review
Questioning the meaning of love, Love Affairs weaves in and out of the lives of several people inter-connected by love triangles to provide an added dimension to the conventional rom-com. Its light touch concerning affairs of the heart is both entertaining and philosophical with the concepts of love and desire referenced. Love Affairs explores whether it is possible for both love and desire to co-exist within relationships using story telling devices which is intriguing, but the film subscribes to rom-com tropes with melodramatic gestures which detract from those glimpses of complex discourse.
Daphné (played by Camélia Jordana) is three months pregnant and unwittingly left to host her partner François’ handsome cousin, Maxime (Niels Schneider) during a few summer days. Predictably, exploring monuments and being in a spacious house to themselves in the countryside results in an intimate bond developing between them whilst sharing historical stories of love.
The film’s English title unfortunately reduces this premise to seemingly being focused on infidelity. Love Affairs is a richer film however, examining societal expectations and notions of love inside or outside the confines of relationships. The film’s more meaningful French title, translated as The Things We Say, The Things We Do, embraces this complexity of the human condition that director Emmanuel Mouret sought to convey. Love Affairs unveils the contradictory behaviours that humans may indulge in within intimate scenarios and makes its audience complicit in the nuanced approaches and interactions with amusing touches.
Love Affairs focuses on Daphné’s perspective whilst being alone and pregnant with the mysterious Maxime which results in an introspective analysis within herself. The film is dialogue heavy but includes a layer of suspense with the interweaving of several ensemble characters within the initial simple dynamic. It is a format employed by several films such as Love Actually and Seules Les Bêtes (Only the Animals) but Love Affairs differs in providing more realistic discussions of the connection between love, attraction and creativity.
Fascinatingly, Love Affairs ponders whether saying that one is in love is the same as being in love and whether one should continue on the same path in life or explore other options. It certainly is not an easy question to answer absolutely and our opinions may change over time, as the film explores. The choices made by the characters in response to some of these theories may seem questionable but the characters are presented with their flawed, multi-faceted realities and so it’s a case of liking or loathing them. Love Affairs does not attempt to persuade its audience to resonate with the characters preferring to allow its narrative and philosophical constructs do the heavy lifting with the mimetic desire theory even casually thrown in during one conversation.
There are some stunning South of France backdrops with a vibrant colour palette within Love Affairs. The waterfalls, long takes in the fields and the historical monuments under Mouret’s masterful direction amplify the sense of romance imbuing that fairy-tale atmosphere in the film. It is therefore easy to comprehend that the characters may feel captivated by such settings as well as the Parisian settings and fall in love within its non-linear structure. Love Affairs embraces that sensation of love with darker undertones as the suspense builds up within the various character interactions as nothing is quite what it seems below the surface.
Love Affairs would have benefited from tighter editing as, whilst the characters occasional distracted glance into the distance may create a sensation of dreaminess and love within its narrative, the film does occasionally feel longer than its run time. However, the film’s overall warm depiction of the complexities of love and desire encountered by the characters as they change over the course of Love Affairs should keep audiences sufficiently invested. Plus, the chemistry between the ensemble, who act so well within the various inter-changing pairings, is intriguing to behold with the classical non-diegetic score amplifying the melodramatic tension ranging from Mozart to Puccini. Love Affairs is an easy to digest, endearing film and despite its tendency to lean on established rom-com scenarios, it is an enjoyable watch provoking philosophical debates about love and attraction.
Love Affairs is Mouret’s tenth feature and will be the Opening Night film for the March edition of the French Film Festival following the film featuring within the Cannes Official Selection for 2020. Love Affairs has also been nominated for the Césars Awards which will be broadcast on 12 March 2021.