Sunday, July 1, 2012

Goodbye First Love (orig. Un amour de jeunesse) [2011]

Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
Roger Ebert's review -

Goodbye First Love (orig. Un amour de jeunesse), written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, is a French language, English subtitled film about ... as the title suggests ... young and (one could ask "is there any other?) tragic love.

Parisians, 15-year old Camille (played by Lola Cretón) and 19-year old Sullivan (played by Sebastian Urzendowsky) are in love.  In the United States, we would look at this relationship far more suspiciously from the get-go, but Subastian is sufficiently "young" (immature seems like too strong a word, though it becomes clear that he is certainly that as well) that one could make him a 17-year-old Senior in High School and her a 15 year old Sophomore and the story would work as well.

Both sets of parents don't think much of it.  Both Camille and Sullivan are still students (in many parts of Europe today, one goes to school basically forever). And yes, they appear to be using "protection" ...  What could go wrong?

Again, _a lot_ of American parents would be shocked by the French parents' blasé attitude.  Yet, I do know from both having once been a teenager myself and having heard plenty of confessions of teenagers over the years that American teenagers are perfectly adept at hopping out of windows at night, when their parents think that they are asleep, to chase after all kinds of dangerous, inappropriate and age inappropriate things.  I also know that American teens do fall in love as well.  Having said all that, however, I have to say that I agree with the American parents who'd scratch their heads and say ... no way.  Consider the film at least in part an indictment actually of the more laissez-faire liberal sections of our own society as well.

Okay.  What could go wrong?  Well lots.  The most obvious is that neither one of these two love-birds is really ready for this kind of relationship.  Sullivan, 19 though he is, is not.  Indeed, even as the two are spending time at her parents' cottage in the idyllic, lush, gently rolling French countryside, alone/together (!), for days (!) ... again, where are the parents??? ... he's telling her that he's going to quit school and go with friends on a back-packing trip to the Andes.  And 15-year-old Camille is _simply to young_ to realize that Sullivan's definitely not the guy to give _her all_ to.  And it's not that Sullivan's evil.  He just doesn't understand what he's getting either (and not just the sex but truly heart-felt devotion) and he's certainly incapable at that age (and really even later on ...) to really accept or appreciate it.  It all comes way _too easily_ ...

So the inevitable happens.  Sullivan goes off with his friends to the Andes.  For a while he still writes back.  Camille has a map up in her bedroom where she marks with stick-pins where he was at the time when he last wrote.  But, inevitably ... the letters stop coming.  What now?   After some time, Camille's dad finally steps up and tells his daughter "You have to turn the page..."

But she's now marked by this failed relationship for a long, long time.

The movie resumes with her in college/grad school some years later.  She's studying to be an architect.  As in the case of another movie that I recently reviewed, Lola Versus [2012],  also about a break-up (though the two in that story were far older: grad students, rather than teenagers), and also largely "Godless" (more on that immediately below) I found Camille's choice of majors (as before I found Lola's choice for her dissertation topic) fascinating.  Camille chooses Architecture.  Hmm.  Even the movie makes the point, Architecture is about building spaces that still need to be filled.   Having had such a disastrous first relationship, she's "building a nest" hoping that someone will one day fill it.

Who?  Well the movie does continue on for some time and there are several candidates.  There's a, once more, rather inappropriately older Architecture professor Lorenz (played by Magne-Håvard Brekke) and there's Sullivan who some years after his famous trip to the Andes appears back in her life.

But it seems more or less obvious to me that she's honestly looking for something more.  And and though the movie _does not say it_ that "something more" is _probably_ God.  Both St. Augustine and, of all things, the Woopy Goldberg film Sister Act [1992] make basically the same point:  "Our hearts will remain restless until they find their rest in you" (from St. Augustine's Confessions) and when we hear the ridiculously overblown love songs of the 1950s-60s like "I will follow him" it should be clear that no one deserves that kind of devotion except possibly God (from Sister Act [1992]). 
Again, the film does not make this religious point.  But whether it intends to or not, it leads one right to the door step.  Otherwise, if the movie continued ... we'd be watching Camille flail around _all her life_ ...

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