Surprisingly Compelling But Lacking Charming Characters
On paper The Laws Of Thermodynamics should be an unmitigated disaster. Merging theoretical science, a documentary format and a romance film is something that feels like it should fail on every conceivable level yet somehow The Laws Of Thermodynamics just seems to work. While some of the scientific concepts and ideas may be lost on some people, the idea to blend these genres together to give more substance to both is an impressive feat and one worth applauding, even if the romantic film parts are cliched and lacking originality on their own.
Admittedly, when you first turn on The Laws Of Thermodynamics it does take a little while to settle into a rhythm. Spanish and English narrators switch depending on who’s speaking, the various formats all begin to collide as the film and documentary portions bounce back and forth and it all feels like it’s heading for uncharted, rocky waters. Thankfully, the ship is righted pretty early on and what follows is an interesting, engrossing film that seamlessly blends both documentary and romance film together to explain the actual laws surrounding this phenomena through the various stages of a romantic relationship.
The Laws Of Thermodynamics makes for a fascinating and oddly engrossing watch but lacklustre characterisation lets the film down from being as good as it could have been. Love-struck Manel (Vito Sanz) fails to cut an empathetic protagonist while Elena (Berta Vázquez) just doesn’t radiate the spark needed to give the two lovers a compelling, believable chemistry. The other main characters include self assured Pablo (Chino Darín) and his disgruntled but accepting partner Eva (Vicky Luengo) who juxtapose nicely with Manel and Elena while the laws are being explained. With Manel and Elena’s relationship eating up the lion’s share of the run time, there isn’t quite enough of this couple’s story to truly feel connected to them despite some of the ideas arguably being more interesting and emotionally complex.
The visual design of the film fits snugly into documentary format while showcasing just enough of the film behind the laws to make it a relevant, focal part of this picture. Scenes are regularly rewound, fast forwarded, slowed and dissected to explain different laws and while this does work from a scientific point of view, it also makes the film a much more passive piece than it perhaps should be. With a little more empathy for the characters and a slightly longer run time just to help flesh out the characters, this could be the most unique and impressively original experiment this year. Technically, the film is competently shot though with seamless editing between the usual documentary format tropes you’d expect and the film aspects playing out across the bustling Spanish city Barcelona.
The Laws Of Thermodynamics won’t be for everyone. Plenty of people will be turned away from the format, especially with the slightly wonky opening and jarring genre mash-up but if you can get past that, this Spanish documentary/romance film is well worth experiencing. If nothing else, The Laws Of Thermodynamics proves you really can merge two opposing genres in a compelling and intriguing way but it’s just a pity the film lacks the compelling characters needed too make this the stand out film it so easily could have been.
Verdict - 7/10