Love Songs review
DISCLAIMER: While I’m not big on writing spoiler-ish reviews, I couldn’t really see a way out of the inclusion of certain plot points to articulate my position on the film. In my opinion, there’s not a lot to “spoil” about the movie (it’s really a stock take-it-or-leave-it sort), but in order to respect the readers who actively stay away from viewing reactions that may be a bit forthcoming, here’s your caution.
Said to be a comparable piece to The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg (which I have no problem believing is well worth the watch, unlike this), Love Songs is a French romantic drama whose story is told largely through songs that the characters break into every few minutes, Rent-style. What makes the film nearly unbearable is the nature of self-important ignorance that pervades almost every scene.
Ismael (Louis Garrel of The Dreamers) and Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) are a couple who are at an impasse in their relationship. Both have become apathetic towards the other one’s needs, and as a desperate and short–sighted measure, they have invited their mutual friend Alice (Chiara Mastroianni) into their bed, hoping that the added ingredient will heal their relationship from the sex side up. Predictably, it only causes them more problems that seem to be leading towards an ultimatum that would force both of them to make crucial decisions about the nature of their commitment to each other. Before it can reach that point, Julie dies in a freak accident, leaving Ismael, Alice, and Julie’s family in a wake of confusion and heartache.
Ismael retreats into solitude, rejecting the affections and concern of his girlfriend’s family as well as the careless advances of Alice, who tries to convince him that a friends-with-benefits arrangement will help both of them heal. Ismael ignores the notion and decides to briefly vacate the apartment he and Julie shared, bunking in at his friend’s place to clear his head. Soon after he moves in, he attracts the attention of his friend’s younger brother. The schoolboy’s crush grows steadily stronger, and while Ismael dismisses him at first, he is slowly drawn in by the boy’s insistence and soon finds himself in a romantic entanglement that invites wariness and criticism from everyone around him, while simultaneously offering him a perceived affirmation on love.
I did not have high hopes in seeing this film after reading the synopsis beforehand. I suppose I went anyway hoping that Love Songs could live up to its title, where its characters could come to some hard revelations on what love offers to us and demands of us. I found instead what I feared would be the case: ignorance. Nearly every character presented in the film, with a couple exceptions, is a person consumed with selfishness and conceit, and, while I’m a general appreciator of musicals, the songs only added to the smugness. But even more than that, I could feel very little empathy for the way the characters dealt with the tragedy of the situation. While the struggle to cope conveyed a very human experience, there was no significant improvement in the lives of the people involved. The only reason I mention that is because the audience is left with a scene that portrays a certain emotional resolution that Love Songs never earns, but desperately wants. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t recognize its own superficiality, and is betrayed by it in the end.