Dir.: Ann Sirot, Raphael Balboni; Cast: Lucie Debay, Lazare Gousseau, Florence Loiret Caille, Nora Hamzawi, Florence Janas, Tarek Halaby, Ninon Borsei; France/Belgium 2023, 89 min.
Playful and often hilariously funny The (Ex)perience of Love is an emotional rollercoaster in the same vein as Jan Bucquoy’s 1994 drama The Sex Life of the Belgians.
Presented at this year’s Semaine de la Critique at Cannes it the sophomore feature of Belgian writer/director Ann Sirot and her French filmmaker partner Raphael Balboni, who recently bagged the top prize at Belgium’s “Marguerites” Awards for their debut Madly in Life.
Sandra (Debay) a fitness instructor, and her partner Remy (Gousseau), editor of a high-brow art magazine in Brussels, are trying to have a baby. Nothing seems to work until their Danish gynaecologist comes up with a diagnosis and a possible cure: Apparently, Sandra and Remy are suffering from a “past loves syndrome”, and need to circle back and sleep with all their ex parters to clear the ‘blockage’.
Both have complex emotional backstories in tune with modern times: Sandra has had more lovers than Remi whose ex Julie (Hamzawi), who would later become his sister by marriage. Quite understandably, Julie’s husband Manu is very much against “lending” his wife to Remy, who is also something of a snob. Remi’s first love Nora has given up on relationships and now lives, sexually active, with two female friends in a shared flat.
So the completion between Remi and Sandra begins, both enjoying their “backlog’ of ex-lovers. Remy meets Marion (Caillle), who is open to all forms of sexual experimentation. Justine (Borsei), Sandra’s sister and a mother of two, tries to help her sibling, who now feels emotionally side-lined by Remy, who is rather enjoying his status as a ‘single man’. On his way to ‘sexual liberation’, he uses Sandra as a sort of guide, trying to sleep with a woman during an orgy in a swimming pool where everyone is wearing an animal head. But no experiment is without its surprises as both Remi and Sandra soon discover.
The (Ex)perience of Love is a study in male sexuality, with Remy regressing to teenage-hood, all too ready to sleep with new women, ‘forgetting’ Sandra and the child they so much wanted. Although the ending is a little too cosy and constructed, the directors confirm that sex without emotional commitment is empty. And that men like Remy are emotionally much less mature than Sandra had hoped for. Hilarious at times, The (EX)perience paints a rather sober picture of gender politics. MT
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