Thursday, July 12, 2012

The lingering power of first love

Young love seen through a sophisticated lens.
She's 15. He's 19. They fall in love. Put that into an American context, and you've got the makings of a gooey-eyed teen romance drawn in juvenile strokes. The French movie Goodbye First Love begins with exactly that premise, but proves a surprisingly sophisticated look at the lingering power of a young woman's first exposure to passion and romance. Camille (Lola Creton) falls for Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky). She clings to him, believing that without him she might expire. He loves her, but he's antsy. Perhaps because he's older, he understands that he should see some of the world. He wants to travel to Latin America. I'm not sure how long Camille and Sullivan are together, but it amounts to a relatively short time, considering that Goodbye First Love covers eight years, focusing mostly on Camille's post-Sullivan life. Geographical distance and time cause Sullivan take their toll on Sullivan's interest, and Camille doesn't expire. She gets on with her life, becoming a student of architecture and eventually an employee and lover of her teacher (Magne-Havard Brekke), a Norwegian architect. Camille moves in with Brekke's Lorenz, and they seem reasonably happy together. But the power of Camille's love for Sullivan never really wanes. Writer/director Mia Hansen-Love doesn't condescend to Camille, whose ardor tends toward the melodramatic nor does she suggest that romance paves the way to happiness. By the end of Goodbye First Love, you'll realize that Hansen-Love has demonstrated that early intoxication can leave one with a long -- and not always pleasant -- hangover.

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