I’ve mentioned before how films will come and go, sometimes disappearing after only a week, so that I don’t have a chance to review them on this show, since I don’t want to review a movie that you, the audience, can’t go to see in Tucson. Of course I get my chance eventually when they come out on DVD. Such is the case with a French film that played briefly here last year called Goodbye First Love.
Most movies focus rather narrowly on telling a story. This one is more about capturing a feeling—as you can guess from the title, it’s the overwhelming feeling of falling in love for the first time in one’s youth. Camille, played by Lola Creton, is a pretty 15-year-old girl living in Paris, enraptured by her relationship with a slightly older, handsome boy named Sullivan, played by Sebastian Urzendowsky. The film conveys the careless delight and euphoria of two young people discovering passion and sexuality, and having fun living in the moment. Camille lives only for Sullivan, she is consumed by her feelings for him, but although he adores her as well, he thinks a lot about the future and the kind of adventurous life he wants to lead. He’s decided to drop out of school and go on a trip to South America, with some vaguely humanitarian purpose, but also to find himself and break free from his sheltered existence. Camille, however, can’t go, and she’s heartbroken and quite angry that he will be leaving her for ten months.
Goodbye First Love was written and directed by Mia Hansen-Love, an actress discovered by director Olivier Assayas (who subsequently married her), and now in her third feature showing herself to be a filmmaker of great promise. The picture is gorgeous to look at, and there is perhaps a hint that the enviable choices of these fairly well-off young people go largely unappreciated by them. The atmosphere of dreamy adolescence and volatile feelings is evoked perfectly, yet not merely for its own sake. Sullivan stays away much longer than he promised, and we watch Camille go through obsession, then heartsickness and despair, finally having to let go of her first love and create a life of her own.
The very talented and expressive Creton, who is only 19, conveys such an unusual blend of youthfulness and maturity that she is able to convincingly play Camille from the age of 15 all the way through her early 20s. As the character matures, becomes an architecture student, and gets involved with a new relationship,another theme emerges: the need for people to invent themselves as they would a work of art.
And after all that, after years of reinvention, what happens if the first love suddenly shows up again? Goodbye First Love (the title really says it all) shows remarkable psychological honesty and a fully earned respect for the secret, ultimately unexplainable laws of the heart.