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Review: Rugged Worker Transforms Philosophy Professor’s Love Life
The Nature of Love. Photograph: Immina Films et Fred Gervais

Middle-aged women engaged in passionate affairs received respectful treatment in Claire Denis’s Both Sides of the Blade and Harry Wootliff’s True Things. Monia Chokri, a Québécois actor-director, brings a lighter, more animated approach in her third movie, which is also her first as a solo screenwriter.

The film begins with a choppily edited dinner party, where a group of intellectual friends discuss themes like the end of the world, narrowing the focus to a couple. Sophia, played by Magalie Lépine-Blondeau, is a philosophy professor whose lectures often involve quoting Schopenhauer, Spinoza, and Plato on love. She has been in a comfortable but unexciting decade-long relationship with Xavier, portrayed by Francis-William Rhéaume. Enter Sylvain, a rugged laborer played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal, hired to renovate her holiday chalet, who surprisingly invigorates Sophia’s sex life.

Lépine-Blondeau brilliantly depicts Sophia’s mix of alarm and excitement under Sylvain’s influence—literally so in one scene where Sophia, beneath Sylvain, narrates her own disbelief aloud. The initial phase is filled with roses and Emile Sornin’s light, pastoral score complements the effervescent atmosphere. However, red flags soon emerge. Sylvain reveals his admiration for a right-wing poet, alongside his jealousy, aggression, and racism. Chokri doesn’t shy away from these controversial traits. Instead, she explores the complexities, adding comic elements like an awkward marriage proposal and transgressive scenes including Sophia buying a collar and leash for Sylvain.

Chokri’s vision for the film includes shooting it as one would a nature documentary, with exterior shots peeking into intimate moments and interior shots looking outward. However, the exaggerated visual style often distracts from the romance. Unconventional compositions frequently split Sophia’s face, or Sylvain is filmed through a car windscreen, with a rear-view mirror obscuring his eyes to conceal his identity. André Turpin, the regular cinematographer for Xavier Dolan, appears to have indulged in numerous 1970s-style visual effects, adding a unique but sometimes jarring aesthetic.

The Nature of Love will be available in UK and Irish cinemas starting 5 July.

Source: The Guardian