The Names of Love is a quirky romantic comedy with an unconventional narrative structure reminiscent of other French imports like Mon oncle d’Amerique and Amelie. Arthur is a half-Jew environmental scientist; Baya is a spirited half-Algerian liberal who uses her body to convert political “fascists” to her point of view. Their shared family histories of tragedy end up bringing the unlikely pair together, a daft premise that would seem out of place if it wasn’t for the film’s whimsical flourishes. The main characters often address the viewer directly and freely appear in their own flashbacks, anachronisms be damned (the fast-moving tales of their youths during the late 80s/early 90s alternate between delightful and disturbing). They interact with their childhood selves, both in the past and present, as well as with the long departed as seen in a cafe scene where Arthur dines with his Jewish grandparents who passed away in Auschwitz. The film quite often recalls vintage Woody Allen, take for instance the unexpected appearance of former Prime Minister of France Lionel Jospin who shows up with some relationship advice, but be warned that the film is definitely deserving of the undefinable adjective that is the word “French” as in “It’s very French.”
The Names of Love opens today at the Ritz at the Bourse.