Tiamo, Liebe and je t’aime, they’re all ways to profess your love. But then, it was Darren Hanlon who once described “love” as a crazy generalisation used for a hundred different feelings and situations. In many ways, Love Lasts Three Years (or L’amour dure Trois Ans) is just another arts piece dealing with love and in particular, the dissolution of a relationship. But what sets this film apart from the typical pack of romantic comedies is the sharp and witty treatment of the subject matter.
The film is an adaptation of the eponymous novel also written by the film’s director, Frédéric Beigbeder. It can be a tad cynical and pessimistic, at times feeling like a relationship handbook you could imagine John Safran, The Chaser or even Dylan Moran in his Bernard Black role crafting with ease (and especially if they were French).
The story goes that a young literary critic, Marc Marronnier (Gaspard Proust) falls madly in love with a girl. They marry and eventually divorce. But Marronnier describes it as “Year one: you buy the furniture, year two: you rearrange the furniture and year three: you divide the furniture”. Proust is an excellent leading man, depicting his character’s views of the relationship cycle with such wit, it feels reminiscent of Alain de Botton’s fabulous, Essays In Love. It is also unsurprising that Proust is actually a stand-up comedian in real life, because he is so likeable and has an excellent, deadpan delivery.
Disillusioned by the love game and life in general, Marronnier decides to kill himself. His final words – written on a post-it note – say: “Any man alive after 30 is a jerk”. But he miraculously survives and decides to pour this vitriol into a book where he denounces love. It is only published because the book editor wants to meet her quota but strangely enough, it becomes an international smash.
Things do begin to look up because Marronnier meets Alice (Louise Bourgoin). She is married to his cousin and despite the pervious evidence to the contrary, he will fall madly in love with her. She is a glamazon but the two hit it off and Marronnier conceals the fact that he wrote “the book”. So in many ways it is the traditional boy meets and wins the girl, only to lose her and it doesn’t take much to figure out what happens next.
The film succeeds through its tongue-in-cheek snatches of irreverent wit like “In the 21st century love is an unanswered SMS” and some cheeky pieces to camera. There is also a particularly funny scene where Marronnier imagines Alice walking into the café at different points as a romantic, a seducer, an aggressor or an awkward person. This feels a little like a would-be Wayne’s World but that’s not to say it’s all one large party. There are at least a few scenes that leave a bad aftertaste, like when one former lothario denounces women because he’s sick of “Annoying b**tches”.
Love Lasts Three Years may not be perfect or groundbreaking but it is one vibrant and clever look at modern romance. It boasts interesting material and things are executed with a real flair: the leads have an easy chemistry; there is a lot of Woody Allen-esque, self-deprecating neuroses; it has a good soundtrack with everything from choirs to Elton John and night club anthems; and the picturesque scenes of Paris and the Basque coast are to die for. It’s basically hard to not like this light, easygoing film and divine slice of escapism. In short, it’s one fun and quirky French film where moments of humour and sarcasm come together and all in the name of love.
Review Score: 8.0 out of 10
Love Lasts Three Years is screening at Sydney Film Festival on June 12.
Runtime: 98 minutes