Goodbye First Love (2011)

A poetic take on first love in its blissful ephemerality and enduring torment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Mia Hansen-Love
2011 | France | Drama/Romance | 110 mins | 1.85:1 | French & German
M18 (passed clean) for nudity

Cast: Lola Creton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Havard Brekke
Plot: A chronicle of the romance between Camille and Sullivan, which begins during their adolescence and picks up after Sullivan’s 8-year absence from exploring the world.
Awards: Won Special Mention (Locarno)
International Sales: Playtime

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: French Film Festival 2019 (at The Projector)
Spoilers: No

My experience with first love was blissful yet tormenting.  I recall the joys and wonderful memories, but also the sheer disappointment of being cast aside with little closure. This is the first film I’ve seen in a very long while that captures the haunting nature of first loves with much authenticity. 

Only Mia Hansen-Love’s third feature, Goodbye First Love received a Special Mention at Locarno, and remains to be one of her most beloved films. It centers on a young couple, Camille and Sullivan, who are crazy about each other.  In the opening scene, we see them naked, about to engage in sex again. 

Even as her work threatens to be typecast as one of those flesh-heavy, coming-of-age tales about adolescent romance that the French seem to be experts in, Hansen-Love’s skillful portrayal of the deeper relational intimacy and emotions that her characters experience brings depth to her narrative. 

“We have all of our life to be serious. Let’s make the most of our youth. “

There seems to be a poetic undercurrent guiding the flow of the narrative, and how this might explain the naturalness of the performances.

Lola Creton, who plays Camille, is particularly breathtaking to watch, such is her screen charisma, natural beauty and the fact that she embodies every fibre of her character. Creton would go on to star in Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air (2012) and Claire Denis’ Bastards (2013). 

Goodbye First Love explores what is ephemeral and enduring about romancing another person.  Its final scene sees that poetic undercurrent manifest visually… and poignantly.

Grade: A-



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