Love Life (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/12/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Engaging relationship-slash-cancer-battle drama that kicks against the usual clichés and features committed performances from its two leads; however, it struggles to overcome the fact that Atsma's character is deeply unsympathetic.

What's it all about?
Directed by Reinout Oerlemans, Love Life (aka Stricken or Komt Een Vrouw Bij de Dokter) is based on the best-selling autobiographical novel by Raymond van de Kludert and stars Barry Atsma as cocky, womanising ad executive (and narrator) Stijn, who marries gorgeous co-worker Carmen (Carice van Houten) after a whirlwind romance. Carmen swiftly discovers that Stijn is incapable of remaining faithful, but she turns a blind eye to his infidelities because he swears that she's the only one he loves.

However, when Carmen is diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoes chemotherapy, she asks Stijn to stop cheating on her, unaware that Stijn has progressed from serial hook-ups to a full-blown affair with artist Roos (Anna Drijver).

The Good
Carice van Houten delivers a powerful, committed performance as Carmen: the chemotherapy scenes are particularly wrenching, as the film doesn't skimp on the painful realities of cancer treatments. Atsma is equally good as Stijn, though his voiceover is frequently irritating.

A huge hit in its native Holand, the film's biggest strength is its bold, non-judgemental and cliché-resistant approach to Stijn and Carmen's relationship (there's a key line early on about love having its own rules in the time of cancer), but perhaps that's to be expected, given the autobiographical source material. In addition, Oerlemans demonstrates that he knows his way around a sex scene or five and also makes some unusual and intriguing directorial decisions, such as staging the film's biggest argument in an idyllic tropical paradise.

The Bad
That said, the film struggles to overcome the fact that its lead character is, frankly, a bit of a bastard who needs a good slap – Stijn is so deeply unsympathetic that you'll be shouting at the screen well before the halfway mark. This would be fine if there was a pay-off to it, but the film-makers seem completely uninterested in investing him with any emotional depth.

On top of that, the film is over-scored to within an inch of its life, which eventually begins to grate, especially when the thumping Infidelity Music starts up.

Worth seeing?
Providing you can stomach its unsympathetic lead character, Love Life is an engaging and ultimately moving drama that's worth seeing for a superb performance by Carice van Houten.

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Content updated: 19/08/2018 12:45

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