Film Review: Goodbye First Love
What brings people together and what pulls them apart? Romance of course seeks to answer these questions and this is the primary failing at the heart of Goodbye First Love, a Gallic-German-Danish co-production that delivers plenty of flesh but paradoxically no passion. There is definitely the appearance of such, but never any investment. Romance like all drama must have an impetus for the lovers to be together, GFL (no acronym? There is now) manages half of this in that the lovers are separated, but beyond lust there is no reason to unite them. As a result we’re forced to endure extended sequences of what is ultimately petting, bookended by the pretence of finding ‘the one’ (unless sentinels are involved, never invoke that numeric signifier, ever).
We’re introduced from the off as we meet our lovers already in the midst of their relationship, the film is prompt in its endeavours to separate them but shoots itself in the foot as the two are reunited, constantly. Even when Camille (Lola Créton) winds up knocking boots with her hip architecture tutor, you’re just enduring the minutes until she finds her way back to Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky). As for the two of them as a couple? Camille is passive-aggressive and needy whilst Sullivan is glib and trite. You’ll be hard pressed to relate to a pair of bland shoo-ins like these, whether or not you’ll be able to tolerate Sullivan’s drippy assertions of his affections or Camille’s irrational on-off proclivities. There is probably something in here to be said about the lack of control in adolescent romance, or indeed the illogicality of love in general but we still need something to grasp on to. Beyond a series of romantic interludes with all the depth of an Abercrombie and Fitch advert.
Based on this exercise in drivel, arthouse cinema at this point seems to have given up on breaking mainstream codas and has given into its very own clichés. That ‘hip architecture tutor’, well, the moment he starts wittering on about the semantic duality of ‘glimmer’ you know who Camille is going to be swooning over. That is of course, if the aforementioned swooning registered on any level. Instead the cast stumble around looking dejected, where is the charisma? Is romance so melancholy that nobody can even muster a smile? Obviously if the minimalist approach has any overriding influence here, it’s obviously Robert Bresson’s work is writ large here. Here’s the problem, Bresson may have roped amateurs into his movies without commanding so much as a wince from them, but he gave them objectives (see Pickpocket) to perform. The line reading may have been stilted, but the physical actions the ‘actor-models’ (confused? Google is your best friend here) performed told the story. Film is a visual medium, actions define character: action is drama. Drama equals incentive! (dammit).
Artsy or not, there’s only so much quasi-philosophy one can be smothered with, even in this niche. Did it ever occur to director/scribe Mia Hansen-Løve that if Sullivan had a persona beyond an elegiac dweeb (chicks dig elegiac platitudes, man) then we may even like him? The many deficits raise so many questions that the result leaves you cold. This isn’t the one, move along.