Coming off of the Cannes Film Festival, Quebec actor, writer and director Monia Chokri brought her feature film The Nature of Love (Simple Comme Sylvain), to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Magalie Lépine Blondeau plays Sophia, a Quebec women in her 40s, a philosophy professor, who has been with her partner Xavier (Francis-William Rhéaume) for 10 years. They're comfortable, but their sex life has very much been on the back-burner.
When Sophia meets contractor Sylvain (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) an affair begins, but this opposites attracts situation comes with its own set of tensions.
The Nature of Love is a love story, but very much told from a woman's perspective, which is something that does truly make the film stand out from others in a similar genre.
"Everything that she was fed as a cinema lover, as a woman, she was trying to deconstruct for herself ... to be able to offer a personal vision, but also from a woman's perspective," Blondeau told Yahoo Canada about working with Chokri.
"It was really interesting because even when we were shooting, she was always questioning her reflexes. Are they mine? Or are they what I was told my whole life? As an actress, for me to be able to be part of that ongoing reflection, and to be able to abandon myself to those scenes, knowing exactly what we were going to tell and how we were going to do it, it was amazing."
For Chokri, she was actually concerned that the concept of this film wouldn't land with audiences because it's missing a level of toxicity that we've become accustomed to in love story films.
"At one point I remember ... I was very [stressed] about the idea that people would not relate to the story, or find it boring, because there was not this dimension of toxicity," Chokri said. "Because we are really used to to seeing those kind of movies, and we think that passion and love is ... blurred between this idea of love and toxicity."
"It's really, really obvious in cinema in the way that we talk about love. It was a concern for me. I was afraid that people would not relate to this story because it wasn't toxic, in a way."
Monia Chokri is 'done' with trope that the 'ugly' woman is intelligent
This is the third time Blondeau and Chokri have worked together, with the filmmaker praising her movie star's skills, in addition to highlighting what made Blondeau a particularly great Sophia.
"She has great technique, but ... I like the fact that she has this beauty and she's very sensual, so in a love story I wanted someone that can be very passionate in a scene, but also [be] a brain," Chokri said.
"I hate this thing in cinema, an archetype of like, if a woman is ugly she's intelligent, and vice versa. We're done with that."
Blondeau added that knowing Chokri so well, it allowed them to go into "intimate zones" with each other, "without ever feeling at risk."
"Monia wrote a beautiful and complex character as she sees women, but often characters follow one mind," Blondeau explained. "Sophia goes in so many directions and as an actress, it was amazing that she would bring all these different sides of me."
"Between the humour and then with her mom, she's more like a child, and then the woman and the intellectual, and the professor, in a very subtle and easy way. But I had such trust in her."
All set behind a beautiful Quebec landscape, Chokri presents passion, love and humour in The Nature of Love in a way that's truly reflective of adult, multidimensional women.