A sweet and charming French romantic comedy with a few serious ideas below its glossy/sexy surface, The Names of Love deftly contrasts the lives of Arthur (Jacques Gamblin), a Jew, and Baya (Sara Forestier), an Arab, in contemporary Paris. Both characters alternately recount their parents’ marriage, family taboos, and sexual histories to indicate how well matched they are for each other. She sleeps with political enemies to convert them. He has little luck with women—one epic fail involves trying to gain sympathy from women (i.e., get laid) by mentioning the Holocaust. Who Arthur and Baya are—and where they came from—provide the key to their characters; they “embody France.” But despite their different backgrounds and approaches to life—he’s shy and modest, she’s completely uninhibited—when they connect it’s magical. Arthur admires Baya’s carefree nature—as when she absent-mindedly strolls nude through the streets of Paris. She respects his good-natured qualities, as when he tricks her father into following his passion. The Names of Love is a quirky romance about nationality, sexuality and politics, but it’s never dull or didactic. Forestier’s sexual energy is infectious, and it’s her enthusiastic performance that makes this film so highly satisfying.
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