The second in Giovanni Veronesi’s proposed series of five films examining the nature and multiple facets of love, Manual of Love 2: New Chapters suffers by comparison to its recent predecessor. Feeling more like an unrelated collection of four vignettes, rather than forming an overriding narrative, Manual of Love 2 lives or dies on the strength of each individual part, and in this respect it is sorely lacking.
A young man (Riccardo Scamarcio) is crippled in a car accident while listening to a radio show called ‘Manual of Love’. He falls in lust with his physical therapist, Monica Belluci, forming the first relationship illustration. A couple, unable to conceive due to the husband’s inadequate spermatic function, travels to Barcelona to undergo IVF. A middle-aged male homosexual couple struggles with family conflict while deciding to marry. A young mother with an attraction for older men to replace the father she never knew begins an affair with the manager of a fine hotel. These unrelated case studies are seemingly supposed to hang together somehow, forming a wider picture of love and its forms, but sadly they never quite gel. The first movie in the series fit together nicely; a sensible progression from initial lust through boredom, infidelity and then separation. Manual of Love 2 features segments entitled Eros, Maternity, Marriage and Extreme Love… and a sense that the point has been lost.
The actors all do reasonable jobs, with Barbora Bobulova in particular standing out as the incredibly annoying hopeful mother of the Maternity segment. Scamarcio brings rare moments of heart to his portrayal of the lustful wheelchair-bound Nicola, and partnered with Bellucci he appears all the more skillful. Bellucci seems only to have been asked to look good in a short skirt and low-cut blouse – which she does – but one wonders if she will ever tire of such roles?
The appeal of the comedy is also rather hit and miss, although perhaps for an audience of Italians this may be less of a problem. Characters like Carlo Verdone’s Ernesto are subjected to all kinds of humiliations and the only response is ineffectual outrage – this is a very European humour, and this may limit the film’s international appeal.
While not a complete failure – there are scattered moments of real emotion and insight throughout – the sense that each vignette doesn’t quite fit with the others is hard to overcome. Perhaps with episodes 3-5 Veronesi will achieve a greater sense of harmony and thus more successful films.Rating: