Love Affairs Film Review by Jessica Seychell- Alliance Francaise French Film Festival 2021

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Love Affairs Film Review by Jessica Seychell

With a narrative tapestry that is so tightly interwoven, Love Affairs demonstrates what a great script can do. Directed by Emmanuel Mouret, Love Affairs manages to fulfil your expectations, then completely subvert them within the millisecond. The film tells a seemingly simple story of the interconnectedness between people, and the messy entanglement of love affairs. We first meet Maxime, a hopeful writer overcoming heartbreak as he visits Francois and a pregnant Daphne in their home, along the French countryside. Due to work, Francois is in Paris, leaving Maxime and the newly acquainted Daphne alone. Upon meeting, Maxime begins to recount his disappointment with his recent flame Sandra, as the two’s relationship mirrored that of star-crossed lovers. As his best friend Gaspard began dating Sandra, the two quickly realised they hadn’t moved on from each other. Humiliated, Maxime is reluctant to continue his story until Daphne convinces him through sharing her story of how she met Francois. Beginning as the ‘other woman’, Daphne recalls Francois’ infatuation with her and the difficulty of his marital status – a shame she held deeply at the time. As the plot progresses, their stories only become more entangled as it seems that each individual player in this story has their own obstacles to overcome and their own agenda to tell it.

This sense of disfunction between the narrative makes for an intriguing watch. With no clear protagonist, it is difficult to infer whose perspective we as audiences should believe – which makes it all the more exciting. At no point are you able to trust anyone, and you’re shown throughout the film time and time again that you shouldn’t. One set up will be completely unravelled by another perspective the next scene, giving an odd sense of mystery to the film. Each characters perspective is both vindicated and discredited, only forming a cohesive picture as you step away from the frame in the films conclusion. This film’s play on perspectives gives a uniqueness that cannot be underestimated. It is not often that French romance/dramas are given this type of consideration and it goes to show what a good script can do.

Even whilst there is such chaos ensuing within the plot, the narrative is grounded with a captivating sense of realness. No character is completely innocent and their actions aren’t justified or glorified. Instead, the pacing of the film allows each characters motivations to be clearly expressed and therefore naturally developed – the good and the bad. Love Affairs is filled with infidelity, lies and deceit. Yet, there’s no villain. Whilst in a convoluted order at times, each character is given the time they need in order to represent their version of the truth authentically. The time and consideration given to each character allows you to see the emotional repercussions of their actions on an individual and group level. Francois’ affair with Daphne acts as a perfect example of this. We see from Francois’ perspective how enlightened and mystified he is by Daphne, and the rush of guilt and excitement he feels about her. In Daphne’s recount we are shown the immense guilt and later gratitude she feels as she finds Francois’ wife Louise wanted a divorce. To which we are shown Louise’s sadness upon finding out on the affair and her boyfriend’s role in covering up Louise’s true feelings. Much like life, there is never an end in sight to the conflicts of this narratives, and it adds to the films sense of verisimilitude. The complexities and hardships of real life are shown and never steered away from.

Love Affairs manages to make you feel as if you are being let in on old gossip that has brewing for too long. With its nuanced representation of narrative structures, this film shows how a great plot and script editor can carry a film, and that’s what makes Love Affairs worth the watch at this year’s Alliance French Film Festival.

Les choses qu'on dit, les choses qu'on fait - Un film d'Emmanuel Mouret - Avec Niels Schneider (Maxime), Camélia Jordadana (Daphné), Vincent Macaigne (François), Emilie Dequenne (Louise), Jenna Thiam (Sandra), Guillaume Gouix (Gaspard), Julia Piaton (Victoire), Jean-Baptiste Amounon (Stéphane), Louis-Do de Lencquesang (David), Gilles Gaston-Dreyfus (Gilles) - Laurent Desmet DOP