The Nature of Love (2023)

Magalie Lepine Blondeau and Pierre-Yves Cardinal star in “The Nature of Love.”

Smart ‘Nature’ trades in the philosophy of love

Renowned philosophers, an exclusive group consisting disproportionately of men, have long debated the meaning of love. Do we pursue it, or does it pursue us? Does it transcend socioeconomic barriers? And what about the physical aspects concerning passion vs. contentment?

The slight, but enjoyable “The Nature of Love” attempts to answer all of that and more from the perspective of a 40-year-old Montreal-based philosophy professor testing out the theories of Plato, Baruch Spinoza,, when she falls under the spell of a hunky handyman who’s her antithesis.

It’s an interesting approach that enables writer-director Monica Chokri to remind us that longing and desire carry no expiration date, as long as you remain open to the possibilities. To illustrate this, she calls on her muse, Magalie Lepine Blondeau, who holds nothing back as the story’s heroine, Sophia. Satisfied, but by no means electrified, Sophia is blissfully unaware she’s stuck in a proverbial midlife rut.

A stirring wake-up call arrives in the form of Pierre-Yves Cardinal’s blue-collar Adonis, Sylvain. It happens when she least expects it. In fact, she vaguely resents even having to meet with him to discuss renovations to the lakehouse she recently purchased with her sweet-but-dull husband, Xavier (Francis-William Rheaume). In almost no time, she feels like a teenager again, overwhelmed by a thirst for seduction.

Typical rom-com, right? Wrong! Chokri is too evolved for that. She’s more interested in how love – or what Sophia perceives as love – can easily erase rationality when lust becomes overpowering and reality distorted. From that first night in the sack with Sylvain, Sophia is a goner. But for a philosophy professor, she’s awfully quick to forget something she surely learned in her youth. And that would be the flame of passion eventually dims. But at the first sign of waning, she’s already gone too far in dramatically altering her life.

Chokri’s screenplay leisurely reveals the transformation. And it extends compassion and an understanding of t Sophia and the impetuous choices she makes while under the influence of what can best be described as puppy love. And without becoming preachy and moralistic, the movie generously allows her space to figure things out on her own, largely through osmosis.

I particularly admire how Chokri juxtaposes a pair of dinner parties, one hosted by Sylvain’s folksy family and the other by Sophia’s circle of intellectual pals. The contrasts are stark, and you can sense the discomfort Sylvain and Sophia each experience in settings far out of their element. But are these huge disparities enough to derail a relationship?

Like a lot in “The Nature of Love,” the answer is intriguing, albeit a resolution a tad too tidily tied up. But any liabilities are minimized by a stunning lead performance by Blondeau, whose radiance is incandescent. And her chemistry with Cardinal is extraordinary. Their handful of sex scenes, alluringly shot by DP Andre Turpin, are most definitely el caliente.

Yes, the story is simple and more could have been done with Sophia applying the ideology of her favorite philosophers to her everyday life. But “The Nature of Love” has so much going for it, from the fine supporting cast to the pontifications on differences in race and class, that it becomes irresistible.

Movie review

The Nature of Love

Rated: Not rated

Cast: Magalie Lepine Blondeau, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Francis-William Rheaume, Monica Chokri and Steve LaPlante

Director: Monica Chokri

Writer: Monica Chokri

Runtime: 111 minutes

Where: In theaters July 5 before streaming starting Aug. 13

Grade: B-

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