Filmmaker Monia Chokri loves a zoom lens. Such is the fun aesthetic of her third feature The Nature of Love. Often the image jumps forwards or backwards, accenting an emotional moment with a punchy, visual exclamation point. It shouldn’t work, yet it does. The film stars Magalie Lépine Blondeau as Sophia, a 40-year-old professor in a comfortable marriage to Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume). “Not unhappy,” she describes herself at one point. Early on, Sophia is intrigued and quickly entranced by Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), the craftsperson renovating Sophia and Xavier’s country home. The affair is immediately sexy, exciting, and passionate.

Cinematographer André Turpin’s camera matches the excitement. When things are turbulent––be they good or bad––the camera gets a bit impatient. When things are stale, the camera gets a bit complacent. Consider one of the best moments of the film: Sylvain’s seductive introduction. The camera runs slowly down a corridor, the light capturing Sylvain in silhouette. It’s both alluring and inviting. Pierre-Yves Cardinal and Magalie Lépine Blondeau mine wonderful chemistry here, while Chokri (she’s acted in many things, including Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats and Laurence Anyways) provides levity as Sophia’s best friend, constantly juggling her screaming kids and cynical partner.

This is a romantic comedy in the world of Nicole Holofcener, only set in Montreal. People discuss big topics (the opening dinner conservation concerns the inherent morality, or lack thereof, of humans) and judge those that do not. One of the more engaging elements in The Nature of Love is class. Sophia comes from and surrounds herself with a certain type of well-off, liberal-minded folk; Sylvain comes from a more working-class background, appearing ignorant and unsophisticated in the wrong light. Chokri does well to underline the hypocrisies and biases of all involved, finding the comedy where it suits her. Sophia has a bit of trouble acclimating to Sylvain’s world, and him to hers. There’s a frustrating, funny ongoing bit in which Sophia keeps correcting Sylvain’s word choice.

Ultimately, what Chokri investigates is nothing new but eternally interesting. Is love a matter of comfort? Is it a matter of passion? Can it be both? In a welcome bit of telling and not showing (not always recommended but successful here), Sophia mentions philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch’s take on love (“It strikes us like an illness”) juxtaposed to bell hooks’: “Love is an action, not a feeling.” Sophia experiences both sides of this coin and must decide which she prefers. This conflict is as old as the French word “ennui.” Yet in this film it remains crucial, entertaining, and mysterious. Credit to the pop-tinged soundtrack, the frantic, zooming camera, the charming performances, and the cheeky direction. As far as The Nature of Love is concerned, the only sure thing is that love is never definitive or final. And to be convinced of that is folly.

The Nature of Love is now in limited release.

Grade: B

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