The Nature of Love  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Monia Chokri, Canada/France, 2023, 112 mins, in French with subtitles

Cast:  Magslie Lepine Blondea, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Francis-William Rheaume

Review by Carol Allen

We don’t see that many French Canadian films in the UK but this one from director Monika Chokri is a bit of gem, being both witty and emotionally engaging.

Sonia (Magslie Lepine Blondea) and Xavier (Francis-William Rheaume) have been living together amicably for ten years.  They have a comfortable, middle class life in Montreal – dinner parties with intellectual friends where they have animated debates on subjects such as  the threat to the environment and a full cultural life overall.  Passion however appears to play no part in their relationship.  But when Sonia is charged with briefing Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) the builder who is renovating their country chalet, there is an instant and overpowering sexual attraction between the two of them. 

Sylvain however comes from a very different world to Sonis’s –  a lively, noisy working class family, who take to Sonia with jolly friendliness, unlike her circle, when they meet Sylvain.   They are somewhat bewildered and predictably a bit snooty.  While poor Xavier is understandably heartbroken at the threat to their cosy existence.  

So can the new relationship survive?   One thing that makes this film a bit different is the sort of commentary we get from the great philosophers of the world from Plato to Spinoza on “the nature of love”, which come via the philosophy course Sonia teachers to Montreal’s elders. The device of the philosophy classes and the various philosophical theories of love, which are then played out very well in the story, help give the story structure and shape.   Comments such as how love changes to friendship once a relationship is established, which is where Sonia and Xavier are at the beginning of the story or the idea that sexual attraction stems from our humanity’s desire for immortality, which they can only experience through having children.  So can this relationship survive, as Sonia and Sylvain find themselves working through virtually every phase of love that the philosophers have identified?

The film is spot on in its observations of the human comedy and touching in places as we identify with the characters, while Blondea and Cardinal as a couple are very sexy.  My only quibble is with the enigmatic final shot, which leaves one with a bit of question mark as to what is the final outcome of the relationship.