Goodbye First Love (Sundance Selects, NR)

GFL sqThe point is, if you like the films I’ve mentioned above or any of the many others that sound vaguely like it—that is, arty films about young people in doomed love—you’ll almost definitely like Goodbye First Love, as it’s the best entrant into the genre in some years.

 

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If you see Mia Hansen-Løve’s new film Goodbye First Love based on the wave of post-festival hype it’s riding on, you might come out disappointed. In practice, the film feels very done before—perhaps because, indeed, it has been done a million times before. On the surface, it’s a typical story of young, attractive people in love. That said, as far as the tropes of the genre go, Goodbye First Love is one of the stronger entrants in the field in recent years.

Our lovers here are French teens Camille (Lola Créton of Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard) and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky, looking like a cross between Adrian Grenier and Benedict Cumberbatch), though the film is much more interested in Camille than Sullivan. Camille’s 16 when we meet her and she and Sullivan are already quite in love—there’s no stereotypical rom-com meet-cute here, probably because this isn’t a rom-com. But Sullivan’s a bit older and wary of being tied down by the perhaps a little too-in-love Camille, and so he goes ahead as planned on a lengthy trip to South America sans Camille, leaving her behind heartbroken and pining for him. The whole thing’s complicated by the fact that the two are still in love when he goes, and do something sort of between staying together and breaking up.

And that’s really how it goes. Although they meet back up here and there over the course of maybe eight years of dramatic time, the heart of their relationship and their one good period comes in the first ten or so minutes of this nearly two-hour film; most of the rest of it concerns Camille’s coming of age, whether it includes Sullivan or not.goodbyefirstlove poster

Like I’ve said and you already knew, the premise of Goodbye First Love is quite familiar. The most obvious, recent entry in the catalog of this story being told is last year’s Like Crazy, with which Goodbye First Love has a lot in common. First Love is the better film of the two, but both at their best show a French New Wave-y flair (perhaps First Love pulls this off better on account of actually being French), and the films’ respective filmmakers seem to show of love of making movies as a substitute for the young love they’re depicting. And while Goodbye First Love might win the greater than/less than game with Like Crazy, it loses it to 2003’s All the Real Girls, with which Goodbye also has its share in common. (When Camille arbitrarily chops off all of her hair partway through Goodbye First Love, I had a traumatic flashback to when Zooey Deschanel’s Noel did the same in AtRG.)

The point is, if you like the films I’ve mentioned above or any of the many others that sound vaguely like it—that is, arty films about young people in doomed love—you’ll almost definitely like Goodbye First Love, as it’s the best entrant into the genre in some years. That said, if you’re drawn to it on account of all of the stellar reviews that have preceded its release from its days touring the film festival circuit, you’re probably setting yourself up to be disappointed by how done-before it feels. | Pete Timmermann

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