GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE
In the spring of 1999, 15 year old Camille (Lola Creton) falls passionately in love with Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), four years older - and keen to explore South America for a year. Four years later, still unattached, Camille is studying architecture and on a trip to Denmark, she gradually falls for her Danish professor, Lorenz (Magne-Havard Brekke). He offers her stability and a future. When Sullivan turns up a few years later, she is caught between two lovers.
Review by Louise Keller:
Love, expectations and realities form the river along which this delicate and moody film flows. Appropriately enough, two rivers figure somewhere in the narrative - the Seine and the Loire - although their relevance is purely symbolic. Filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve delights at looking at miniscule details and making them matter, like she did in her 2009 film Father of My Children. There are no fireworks, stars and elation for the young protagonist, who discovers love for the first time. Instead, it is a painful experience, filled with longing. As a consequence, the film is a touching and soulful portrait.
It is February 1999 when the film begins in Paris on one cold winter's day. Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) is riding his bicycle to his apartment, his face mostly hidden under a warm scarf. But it is far from cold inside and 15 year old Camille (Lola Créton) is waiting for him in bed - naked. We quickly get a sense of their intimate relationship. If you leave me, I'll jump into the Seine, tells Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) and he in turn says he'll kill her if she cuts her shoulder-length curly hair. He tells her he doesn't want to be too dependent; her mother says she's too melancholic. But when they're alone, they can't get enough of each other. Love is all she wants.
Their intense, passion-filled days continue when they holiday in Ardèche at the holiday home of Camille's family, when they swim in the Loire, pick cherries from the tree, walk through the greenery and lie under the trees as the wind rustles through the leaves. But there's a cloud on the horizon and Camille can't come to terms with it. Sullivan has quit school and is planning 10 months in South America - to find himself. She may want to be his everything, but he tires of her threats, tears and tantrums.
It is the film's first half that we intimately get to know Camille and Sullivan. We can feel Camille's pain and sense of loss as Sullivan leaves on his journey of self-discovery. Even his reassuring letters that share his experiences with her are not enough but are something she cannot help but hold against him. When she takes the pins from the map of South America that have traced his route, we know she has let go. It's time to turn the page, her father tells her as she sobs into her pillow.
The transition from innocent teen to a young adult is beautifully handled by Hansen-Løve, as Camille studies to be an architect and becomes involved with her teacher Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke). He teaches her about light and darkness and she becomes the light in his life. Seasons change and Camille and Lorenz share a caring, if less than passionate relationship. Inevitably, Sullivan comes back into Camille's life and when they fall into bed together in a Paris hotel, it's as though time has been frozen.
The three central performances are perfectly pitched and Créton manages the transition from besotted teen to a young woman resigned to the realities of love with delicate precision. My only reservation lies in the use of music, which is slightly at odds with the mood the film works so hard to create. This is a film overflowing with emotions and rich with imagery. I prefer the French title Un amour de jeunesse, which perhaps better delivers the intentions of the filmmaker in its intricate, detailed exposition.
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GOODBYE, FIRST LOVE (M)
Un amour de jeunesse
CAST: Lola Creton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Havard Brekke, Valerie Bonneton, Serge Renko, Ozay Fecht, Max Ricat,
PRODUCER: Philippe Martin, David Thion
DIRECTOR: Mia Hansen-Love
SCRIPT: Mia Hansen-Love
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephane Fontaine
EDITOR: Marion Monnier
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mathieu Menut
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2012