AMOUR DU JEUNESSE/ GOODBYE FIRST LOVE
France, 2011, 110 minutes, Colour.
Lola Creton, Sebastian Urzendowski, Magne Havard Brekke.
Directed by Mia Hansen Love.
Writer-director Mia Hansen Love was not yet thirty when she made this film, after success with her earlier films, especially, The Father of My Children. In interviews, she has remarked that her films have autobiographical elements, this one in particular.
This is the story of Camille, a fatalistic romantic even as a school girl. She is in a relationship with a photographer, whose name is, rather unexpectedly, Sullivan, and declares her undying love. He however, wants some time away, to go to South American with friends and be himself. He still loves Camille but not that much. She, on the other hand, pines for him.
Eventually, she has to do something with her life. She studies and, as the years pass and Sullivan does not return, she becomes an architect, quite a creative architect, and attracts the attention of her (married) Norwegian professor. It is rather a long time rebound, but for some years, they have a relationship.
One day, she encounters Sullivan’s mother in a bus and finds that he has returned some years earlier and is living in Marseilles.
The main question of the last part of the film when Sullivan and Camille resume their relationship (and Camille shows she is adept at concealment and deception) is whether this new phase can last or this is the bitter-sweet conclusion.
The film is very French in that concentrated focus on serious characters and intense emotions. Lola Creton has to age from fifteen to her late twenties. It was a surprise to find that, though she looked older earlier in the film, she was only eighteen at the time of production. German Sebastian Urzendowski is the dark handsome Sullivan who is really out of his depth in dealing with Camille. Magne Havard Brekke is the rather egotistical professor.
The success of the film’s impact will depend on whether we can identify with Camille, her passions and her sadness, or whether she just seems obsessed and sad, and we wish she would grow out of it. But, this is how so many French dramas deal with such emotional stories.
1. A French love story? The director, young, autobiographical aspects? French style and tone? The story of relationships?
2. The city locations, Paris, Marseille? Homes, the later sequences and architecture?
3. The French title? Youth and love? The English title with the emphasis on the goodbye?
4. Camille, her age, at home, her mother, her love for Sullivan, devoted? The meetings, the discussions about his travel?
5. Sullivan, his home, family, the photography, relationship with Camille, wanting to travel, with his friends, the discussions with Camille, her not wanting him to go? His decision to leave, the promise to return?
6. The years passing, Camille, as an architect, her relationship with Lorenz? Her success, relationship, no news of Sullivan? Meeting his mother, renewing the acquaintance, on and off?
7. Sullivan, his staying away, Latin American travel, his photography, the years passing, his return, not contacting Camille? Their meeting, tentative, the possibilities, being together, Camille’s love for him? His not being able to stay with her?
8. The decision, the impact on each of them? Their future? The effect of a first love?