“The (Ex)perience of Love” (“Le syndrome des amours passées”)


Screened at the 2024 Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago European Union Film Festival (4/5); Letterboxd (4/5), Imdb.com (8/10), TMDB.com (4/5)

What’s the difference between love and sex? It’s a conundrum that many of us wrestle with (and one that many of us would probably rather not bother with). However, what if it comes up in connection with resolving a sensitive, ongoing problem? That’s what Sandra (Lucie Debay) and her partner Rémy (Lazare Gousseau) must face when it comes to finding an answer to their longstanding infertility problem. They want a child but are having much difficulty getting pregnant. But, after exploring many options, Sandra’s obstetrician (Vincent Lecuyer) proposes an unusual treatment. After having attended a medical conference, he comes away from it believing that the couple is suffering from “Past Love Syndrome,” a psychological condition that’s blocking the physical act of fertilization, a disorder that can be overcome in most cases by each of the partners sleeping with all of their past sex partners. Sandra and Rémy are modestly stunned but nevertheless open to the prospect, but there’s one issue that needs to be addressed – the partners each have drastically different sexual histories. Rémy has only slept with three other women, while Sandra is, shall we say, considerably more “experienced.” This creates something of a disconnect between them, but, in the interest of achieving their goal of getting pregnant, they leave themselves open to the possibilities, a course of action that’s subsequently filled with numerous unexpected surprises, many of them comic, some of them heartfelt, others heartbreaking. And so the process of becoming would-be parents takes off on an unusual odyssey, one punctuated by lots of laughs and a number of intriguingly profound insights about the nature of love, sex, relationships and fidelity (or substitutes therefor). Writer-directors Raphaël Balboni and Ann Sirot have come up with a delightfully charming, funny and endearing story, one that’s nicely paced and presented with inventive cinematography and a sometimes-whimsical, often-colorful production design. This is one of those offbeat romances that pushes viewers to open their eyes – and their minds – to alternative possibilities when it comes to love and how we approach it, showing us that there are many untapped options out there that many of us have never pondered, let alone explored. Indeed, the experience of love need not be a one-size-fits-all exercise as this film so aptly shows. This is a Belgian import truly worthy of a domestic release. Let’s hope it gets one.