Goodbye, First Love -- Film Review

Goodbye, First Love

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

This is a sensitively done presentation of the feelings and vicissitudes of young love.  The original title in French is Un amour de jeunesse, which is not really well rendered by "Goodbye, First Love" in English.  "A Love of Youth," or "A Young Love," would probably be a more accurate translation, and a better reflection of the content of the film.  "Goodbye, First Love" focuses attention on the breakup and the outcome of the relationship, and seems to emphasize the negative.  But this film is a story of growth and maturation.  The point of the film is the process rather than the outcome.  The outcome, I would say, is positive, in that the characters learn from their experiences, gain insight into themselves and each other, and move on with their separate lives in ways that are right for them -- probably better than if they had stayed together.  The choices they make are the right ones, both for themselves and each other, even though they do not end up living happily ever after.  They start when the girl, Camille (Lola Créton), is fifteen.  The boy, Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), is probably a few years older.  They divide their time between fucking and quarreling. The youthful need to fuck, fuck, fuck, keeps drawing them back to each other despite the misunderstandings, disappointments, and resentments which are inevitable for people who are inexperienced and just learning.  The girl loves with a needy, dependent kind of love that is relentless in its demands for time, attention, and togetherness.  It probably feels like quicksand to the boy, who feels compelled to extricate himself from her -- with misgivings and regrets -- and he leaves Camille behind for a years long journey to South America, but writing to her often.  She pines away, but eventually takes up with an older man, a Norwegian architect named Lorenz (Magne-Håvaard Brekke).  The girl (Lola Créton) is beautiful and sexy, and we get to see her body a lot, which is nice.  It is her appeal that carries the film, I would say, both visually and emotionally.  Most of the film's interest is her inner turmoil.  The men are less well rendered and less well understood.  Camille has a problem with separations.  She sinks into a kind of lethargy and depression when the man she is obsessed with goes away.  By the end of the film she is doing better.  She is able to apply herself to her work, but her tendency is to look to an affair to relieve loneliness and vent resentment in the face of a separation.  There is an intense, but short-lived, revival with Sebastian after in indeterminate number of years.  It doesn't work out; they have moved in different directions, and in the end she returns happily to Lorenz.  The film is slow moving and seemed kind of long to me.  There is not a lot of action.  I got tired of it about halfway through.  Maybe I was tired when I went.  Maybe I started feeling the way that boy felt having to deal with that young girl's hungry love.  It does take a toll.  One cultural difference I noticed was the support the young people received from their parents in their love affair.  The parents were interested, sympathetic, and as helpful as they could be to their children in their emotional lives.  American parents tend to set themselves in opposition to their children's sex lives, and thus render themselves useless to them and lose any influence they might have over the course of events.  That is something American parents might do well to pay attention to.  The film is overly long and taxing, but it is balanced by the appeal and sexiness of Lola Créton, and by an insightful, sympathetic portrayal of the emotional struggles of a young couple.  It is in French with subtitles.