The Laws of Thermodynamics uses unconventional narration to support a fictional love story about an obsessed neurotic scientist that applies scientific theories to his relationships.
Netflix’s The Laws of Thermodynamics, or known in the native language as Las leyes de la termodinámica, is not the best film of 2018. But it is undeniably my favourite movie of the year so far. I sincerely believe that the Spanish film will endear itself to many others with its honest account of relationships. The Laws of Thermodynamics follows the story of Manel (Vito Sanz), a neurotic scientist that obsessively applies the laws of thermodynamics to his love life, convinced that physics can have a play in balancing his relationship with a famous top model.
On paper, The Laws of Thermodynamics sounds basic, but the filmmaking technique used to piece the story together is to some degree brave. The Netflix film is combined with documentary-style snippets, narrated by experts and scientists describing the physical science that deals with the relations between heat and other forms of energy. At times, the film cuts off to scientists openly discussing the way energy transfers, relaying various theories to the audience. On face value, most audiences will not be able to comprehend what the scientists are describing; however, their theories coupled with the fictional story works.
And it shouldn’t. The Laws of Thermodynamics should give the impression of a cheesy, throwaway cinema release, but instead, it provides real meaning to the basic interactions of a person’s everyday love life. Most scenes are following Manel, accompanied by scientific theories to describe the character’s actions or the actions of others. Manel is not a character you will enjoy; his presence is somewhat miserable and pessimistic, but with the narration and his obsessiveness to explain every outcome of his love life, many answers about relationships are provided.
If you have experienced real relationships that have ended ugly or not had the outcome you expected, then The Laws of Thermodynamics will provide a sense of realism despite its odd nature of delivering a story. The movie’s genre is described as a comedy, and whilst amusing, if you strip away what is meant to be funny, which is the description of the science every time Manel makes a choice, you are really witnessing a case study of a troubled relationship. The style is humorous but the actual story shows a character so obsessed with his discoveries that he cannot help but articulate every single relationship event as if it were a scientific moment. The film in its real flesh is surprisingly tragic.
The main strength, apart from the clever way of articulating the story, is the performances. Vito Sanz does very well to go into the bones of what this character represents. In many moments, I wanted to jump into the screen and give the man a slap; he has the type of miserableness that consumes you and ruins your day. Yet at the same time, he is frustrating because you can clearly understand what he is going through. The Netflix movie would not have been possible without this performance, because it would have been sagged down by its ploy to include scientific narration. The top model he is romantic with, played by Berta Vázquez, also gets a deserved nod by supporting the obsession and keeping her character at arm’s length from the audience; this was important, and I am pretty sure it was a hard balance to achieve.
The only aspect that lets The Laws of Thermodynamics down is by the time you enter the third act is that style does slightly overcome substance, with the documentary approach starting to grate. There is most certainly such a reliance on the narration that it nearly ruined the ending. Fortunately, the ending offers such an enticing lesson that you immediately forget your frustration.
The Laws of Thermodynamics is a must-see this year, and luckily it is on Netflix. If there is ever a movie that demonstrates the importance of streaming platforms, it’s this one.
Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.