Forestier’s Cesar winning role
Sara Forestier won a Cesar Award for her role as Baya in this Annie Hall-like take on love and identity.
Baya is the bawdy daughter of an Alergian immigrant (Zinedine Soualem) who pours his heart into his paintings, and a former French radical (Carole Franck).
Her half-Arab roots are her secret pride. An avid left-winger, she’s out to convert one “fascist” at a time.
Dark romantic comedy
Perky Baya’s wardrobe malfunction moments are oddly amusing and over-the-top. In a memorable performance, Forestier flits bird-like from one lover to the next.
Baya was seduced by her piano teacher at age 12. Since then, she’s never been the same.
Baya meets Arthur
Jacques Gamblin stars as straight-arrow Arthur Martin, Baya’s newest love interest. Arthur is a veterinarian who dissects dead animals.
Baya bursts into the sound studio in protest while he’s speaking on a radio show.
Arthur’s French Catholic father (Jacques Boudet) runs a nuclear power plant and fought in Algeria. His mother (Michele Moretti) suppresses her Jewish identity and Auschwitz memories. The truth often bursts out, especially when she loses her papers one day.
Arthur travels back in time, but fails to change his parents’ decision to name him Arthur Martin. They sought to mask his Jewish heritage by naming him after the washing machine.
Deadpan Arthur is efficient and reliable, just like the appliances. Everyone he meets says so.
Sexy, sad, reflective
The Names of Love weaves dark comedy around two taboos, childhood sexual abuse and The Holocaust. A study of identity, the film is reflective, sad and occasionally amusing.
Arthur’s inner teen appears to chat with him about Baya. The adult wants to capture her free spirit, but wonders whether it’s possible or even wise.
Arthur’s dead grandparents return, urging him to remember them. In one scene, the son delightfully reimagines his mother’s past as she rides in her father’s taxi.
Dinner with the parents
When Arthur introduces his parents to Baya, their dinner party erupts into near mayhem. Suppressing herself is not Baya’s strong suit. When her parents arrive for dessert, complications arise.
Leclerc, who co-wrote the screenplay with his partner Baya Kasmi, mentions Woody Allen in the dialogue as he adapts the famed director’s “free love” style.
Watching the film can be challenging. White subtitles sometimes appear on a white background. Certain scenes are blurred for effect in a distracting manner.
Lionel Jospin cameo
A cameo by Arthur’s idol Lionel Jospin, a former candidate for prime minister of France, is featured.
The treatment of immigrants and non-Christians in modern-day France is also explored poignantly and tenderly in the romantic drama Welcome.
Baya and Arthur consider the future. How safe is it to be oneself in any culture or country?
“We’re half-breeds,” Baya declares. “The day there’s nothing but half-breeds is the day there’ll be peace.” (3.5 out of 5 stars)
If you like The Names of Love, you might enjoy: Midnight in Paris.
The Names of Love (Le Nom des Gens) 2010 / R / 1 hour, 42 min
Cast Overview: Sara Forestier, Jacques Gamblin, Carole Franck, Zinadine Soualem, Michele Moretti, Jacques Boudet
Director: Michel Leclerc
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Dark Comedy, Foreign Film