Goodbye First Love captures the intensity of young love (review)

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Goodbye First Love, movie
Goodbye First Love: the angst, naivety, intensity, passion and seriousness of first love

Mia Hansen-Løve’s third film does at least one very important thing, it reaffirms her as one of her generation’s most competent directors, proving without doubt that the magnificent Father of My Children was no fluke. With my most pretentious shoes on, I strutted down to Dartington Hall’s, Barn Cinema to check out the French director’s newest film.

Goodbye First Love is certainly one of the more accomplished films concerning ‘first love’. It has a deftly acted script, which illustrates the angst, naivety, intensity, passion and seriousness – especially the seriousness! – of a first love. The director has professed (quite willingly), that the film is semi-autobiographical, and all I can say is, “wow, that Mia, she was a ‘serious’ teenager!”

Our protagonist is Camille, who at the age of 15 starts a relationship with the carefree Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), and to say that Camille, falls head-over-heels for Sullivan, would be an understatement – she falls hopelessly and madly in love with him!

The film’s first hour charts their relationship, until Sullivan sets off on a backpacker’s vacation to South America. From there, Camille slips into a depression and even attempts suicide, however, this moment is dealt with with considerable speed, breezing over the suicide attempt, but perhaps that hints at the director’s personal experience, with ‘it’ being swiftly swept under the carpet by her family?

Anyway, Camille eventually packs her own bags and heads off to university, where she falls in love with her architect lecturer, Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke), and it isn’t long until the two enter into a relationship. However, while in Paris Camille bumps into Sullivan’s mother and gives her her phone number so Sullivan can call her if he’d like to meet-up. But, how will Camille fare when meeting her first love again, will she return to her melancholic ways, or have her experiences made her stronger?

Hansen-Løve’s film is beautifully shot and well-acted. In something of an unusual move, the actress Lola Créton who plays Camille, was actually 16 at the time of shooting, which makes for a refreshing change from 30 year olds playing teenagers. For some of the later scenes where Camille is supposed to be in her mid-to-late 20s, it is a little unbelievable, with both her and Sullivan looking a little on the young side, but that’s a minor quibble.

If you believe the film’s central message, then it’s clear that Hansen-Løve, doesn’t believe that any love post your first will ever match that original’s loves intensity or power. This is clear by the difference in how the two relationships that Camille has are depicted. The relationship with Sullivan is all about passion, whereas the relationship with her lecturer-lover has obvious twinges of the Electra complex – something I’m certain that isn’t lost upon the director. The idea of ‘Daddy issues’ is compelled further by the exit of Camille’s actual father – her parents split-up – and the forming of her relationship with the lecturer, a similar, ‘safe’, father-like figure.

The film raises some interesting questions about love and it also reveals quite a bit about the director. Goodbye First Love is personal filmmaking at its best – neither pretentious nor overly self-indulgent. This is unquestionably an ode to Mia Hansen-Løve’s younger-self, but without the beautiful and accomplished young actress Lola Créton the film would have floundered. If you’ve ever been in love, then this should be on your list of films to see in 2012, and what’s more, it features the folky warbling’s of Johnny Flynn on the soundtrack, which is never a bad thing!