The Names of Love

A French romantic comedy of politics and an attraction of opposites romance between an ultra-conservative, repressed, middle aged ornithologist and a much younger but crazy, spontaneous, liberal minded, sexy, left wing activist, who uses her body to convert fascist right wing conservatives.

If this isn’t an original enough story for you it will definitely not be easy to find one more audacious than this but the movie works and I was pleasantly surprised by its charms.  I was actually in a bad mood for some reason when I was forced to see this movie over another, but by the end I was glad I did see it because I loved it and it completely won me over, putting me in a much better mode. Thank god for French romantic comedies.

Done in the style of the early Woody Allen films with characters talking to younger versions of themselves that only we the audience is meant to see, the movie starts by giving us the whole family history of the unlikely couple. It’s a lot to take in at first and becomes a little confusing if your not paying attention but don’t worry it’s well worth the effort.  It’s all done with so much humor and charm and the characters are all so eccentric and well-drawn that it’s fun and crazy at the same time. 

The actors portraying the couple are so well suited to their roles and are completely natural and believable even in the most hilarious situations. Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) is a conservative, serious professional with no sense of humor when he meets a beautiful young woman Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier) who is extremely judgmental and passionate about politics and helping people in order to change the world, but can’t keep a job because she’s so absent minded and unpredictable. He is attracted to her precisely because she is so completely foreign to his sensibilities and despite her overbearing and free spirited manner she manages to bring out a more open minded and playful side of him and he starts to enjoy life for the first time. 

The film’s obsession with names has to do with the fact that in society we are so concerned with our family origins but our names in many cases are no longer a reflection of who we are now or where we come from.  We therefore are treated to all kinds of awkward situations revolving around racial and cultural identity, immigration and family politics. But in a couple of memorable scenes that everyone can relate to, the couple starts to work together in inventive ways to harmonize and defuse a tense situation and the results are hysterical. It’s one of those moments of revelation that’s funny and moving at the same time where you go Ahaaaa! Bien sure! How romantic is that.

This movie has the same whimsical charm as movies like Amélie (2001), and Soul Kitchen (2009) and is a must see film well worth the effort of reading subtitles and I am looking forward to seeing it again. 

The actress Sara Forestier won the César award (French Oscar) for her portrayal of Baya in this film.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I regret not being able to see this one in the theatre. Maybe I will rent it from a video store. Excellent review by the way.