Love Affair(s) (2020) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): The things they say – and the things they do

French film “Love Affair(s)” is a funny and intelligent comedy about that complicated thing called love. As a bunch of supposedly smart and sensible characters trying to handle their unexpected romances and the accompanying personal complications, the movie busily and hilariously goes up and down along with their unpredictable and inconvenient romantic feelings, and we come to reflect more on how we all can be quite confused and conflicted in front of that irresistible human emotion.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Daphné (Camelia Jordana) and Maxime (Niels Schneider), who happen to meet each other for the first time via Daphné’s husband François (Vincent Macaigne), who is Maxime’s cousin. Because François is going to be absent for several days due to the sudden unexpected complication at his workplace, Daphné, who has incidentally been pregnant for 3 months, will have to stay alone at their rural retreat during that short period, and she is certainly delighted when Maxime comes to stay with her. Although they do not know each other much, it does not take much for them to befriend each other while they go here and there in the surrounding area, and Maxime finds himself quite comfortable as freely talking with Daphné about several things including love.

Not so surprisingly, it soon turns out that Maxime has a little painful personal story about love even though he is very reluctant to tell it to Daphné, who certainly becomes quite curious and naturally encourages him to confide everything to her. Maxime initially hesitates, but he subsequently finds himself telling her a lot more than expected as Daphné also turns out to have a rather embarrassing romantic tale of her own, and the movie accordingly swings back and forth between these two different tales.

In Maxime’s story, everything begins from his casual romantic relationship with a married woman. He does not expect much from her because she makes it pretty clear to him that she wants him mainly for carnal pleasure, but then, what do you know, he finds himself becoming quite smitten with her younger sister Sandra (Julia Piaton) when she is later introduced to him and his close friend Gaspard (Guillaume Gouix). As getting to know Sandra more, Maxime becomes more convinced about his attraction toward her, but, alas, Sandra comes to begin a serious relationship with Gaspard instead, even though they do not agree with each other that much on sex and love from the very beginning.

Now it seems that all Maxime can do is simply stepping away for respecting his friendship with Gaspard, but things become quite complicated as Sandra and Gaspard sincerely suggest that he should stay along with them at least for a while. Due to his remaining feeling toward Sandra, Maxime accepts the suggestion without much hesitation, and, of course, he consequently finds himself in a very tricky position between Sandra and Gaspard – especially when Sandra and Gaspard respectively consider ending their relationship due to their increasingly evident personal differences.

In case of Daphné, her story is less complicated in comparison, though her pursuit of love and happiness is equally eventful to say the least. While diligently working on the latest documentary of some prominent male filmmaker as his editor, she finds herself fallen in love with that filmmaker, and she is certainly excited when the filmmaker invites her to a dinner with him for something important to discuss with her in private, but, unfortunately, it turns out that she has misread the director’s attitude to her from the very start.

At least, the dinner is not a total disaster because Daphné comes across François when she is about to leave. Although he is also a married guy besides being a total stranger, Daphné cannot help but attracted to him as he earnestly approaches to her, and they soon embark on their little affair. Although it seems that their affair will last only for a short period, François finds himself becoming quite serious about his feelings toward Daphné, and both of them consequently become very conflicted because ruining his supposedly happy married life is the last thing they want at present.

As intriguing and amusing us more and more, the screenplay by Emmanuel Mouret skillfully balances these two different narratives, and then it surprises us more via some other narratives subsequently added to the whole picture. I will not go into details here for not spoiling any of your entertainment, but I can tell you that you will appreciate a lot how it deftly wields its naughty sense of humor. Like many of those classic French comedies, the movie delights in maneuvering its main characters into more human conflicts and complications to popped here and there along the story, and, to more of our amusement, the movie firmly sticks to its deadpan attitude while somberly playing a number of familiar classic pieces on the soundtrack to nice dramatic effect.

Without showing any distracting moment of self-consciousness, the main cast members play their respective roles straight as much as possible. While Camelia Jordana and Niels Schneider dutifully occupy the center, Vincent Macaigne, Jenna Thiam, Guillaume Gouix, and Émilie Dequenne come and go as required, and Dequenne virtually steals her every moment on the screen as a sort of wild card in the bunch.

On the whole, “Love Affair(s)”, whose original French title is “Les Choses qu’on dit, les choses qu’on fait” (It means “The things we say, the things we do”, by the way), is funny and entertaining with many witty and insightful human moments I am willing to revisit for savoring them more. Yes, love can be very touching, but it is also quite a funny thing, and you may find yourself reflecting on that more after having lots of laughs and chuckles from this little naughty but charming piece of work.

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