out of Five
Running time: 110
Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a powerfully emotional and refreshingly unsentimental coming-of-age drama with a terrific central performance from Lola Creton.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (Father of My Children), Goodbye First Love stars Lola Creton as Camille, a teenager whose obsessive first relationship with carefree older teen Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) is brought to a brutal end when he decides to take an extended trip to South America. After receiving a letter in which Sullivan tells her the relationship is over, Camille attempts suicide and is hospitalised, but when she recovers, she throws all her energies into studying architecture.
As the action skips forwards through a period of ten years, Camille begins a more emotionally rewarding relationship with her much older architecture professor, Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke), under whose tutelage her career takes off. However, when Sullivan unexpectedly reappears on the scene, Camille finds herself unable to escape her old feelings and the pair embark on an affair.
Lola Creton is excellent as Camille, convincingly portraying her both as a lovestruck, overly melodramatic teenager (“Love is the only thing that counts for me – it is my sole reason for living”) and as a mature young woman. There's also strong support from Urzendowsky, while Brekke is superb as Lorenz – despite their age gap (not unlike the age gap between Hansen-Løve and her partner, director Olivier Assayas), we can clearly see that their relationship is on an equal footing and that they are good for each other.
Intriguingly, the film unfolds without flashbacks, allowing for a sense of things continually moving forwards, the passage of time often only connoted by subtle touches, such as the change of a hairstyle or the glimpse of a calendar. The script is also refreshingly unsentimental, rejecting the expected big dramatic moments and also being unafraid to make its lead character unsympathetic (compare this to the superficially similar One Day, where the filmmakers cut out the fact that Anne Hathaway's character was supposed to have an affair).
Hansen-Løve's direction is remarkably assured throughout and she's adept at creating recognisable moments of powerful emotion that will strike a sharp chord with anyone who's ever experienced the heartache of adolescent love. She's also rather fond of overt symbolism, most notably with the importance that water plays in the film, though this occasionally goes a little over the top, such as in the scene where Camille allows the hat she bought Sullivan to float downstream and out of her life (the hat is also used to trap a spider in an earlier scene and you don't get much more symbolic than that).
Goodbye First Love is an impressively directed, powerfully emotional coming-of-age drama with a superb script and a terrific central performance from Lola Creton. Highly recommended.