'Goodbye First Love': Memory fuels tale of dead-end passion
A movie review of "Goodbye First Love," Mia Hansen-Løve's smart and stirring drama about both the grip and importance of memory. The film, which touchingly evokes the fresh sense of discovery in the French New Wave, follows two former lovers who meet again in Paris.
Special to The Seattle Times
'Goodbye First Love,' with Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky. Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve. 110 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. In French, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum, through Thursday.
There's a wonderful moment in the savvy, melancholy "Goodbye First Love" that literally captures the experience of reconnecting with someone special you haven't seen for many years, picking up exactly where you left off.
Camille (Lola Créton), mid-20s, is walking in Paris one evening on her way to meet Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), a former lover who left her when she was 15. Spotting Camille, Sullivan catches up to her on his bicycle. They don't stop, don't hug. They just keep traveling along together, as they once did.
Sullivan and Camille may not stand still, but time does whenever they are together. Yet their romantic chemistry is one thing while the reality of their mismatched lives is something else. Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve with a deliberate, touching evocation of the French New Wave, "Goodbye First Love" is about dead-end passion as both a sign of life and an obstacle to happiness.
Hansen-Løve introduces the characters as kids, shortly before a restless Sullivan departs France, leaving Camille suicidal. They spend their final days together in a languorous haze, interrupted by recriminations.
It's a miserable time, yet Hansen-Løve films with an eye toward discovering and rediscovering these characters in pure moments of simple, poignant humanity — wading in a river, clambering over rocks.
Her expressive, moody images hearken to an older, icon-rich era in European film, stirring old movie memories for us while creating painful, personal ones for Camille, who will struggle with their meaning when she meets Sullivan again.
Memory is the engine of "Goodbye First Love." The film's second act, in fact, spanning years in which Camille grows into a young architect, explores the idea that new buildings must always capture something of remembrance. That is Hansen-Løve's point with this fine movie as well.
Tom Keogh: email@example.com