In matters of love, or more correctly sex, Cézanne has no problems while Zola's timidity prevents him from approaching women. He becomes entranced by one of Cézanne's model's, and mistress, who calls herself Gabrielle. As the film jumps from youth to their more mature lives, we see Zola married to Gabrielle, although she now uses her real name, Alexandrine.
Zola's novel, L'Œuvre, was in effect a fictionalised depiction of Cézanne and the Bohemian life of Paris artists. Cézanne was angry that his friend had used their relationship in this way, which led to a virtual breakdown of their friendship. And there remained bad feeling over Alexandrine, now Zola's wife. These tensions are central to the film as we travel from the past to the present.
I found the depiction of nineteenth century Paris fascinating, as artists and authors who are now household names meet as young men who were still to make their mark. And as a counterpoint, we have the beautiful scenery of Aix-en-Provence, where Zola and Cézanne met as young boys and grew up.