Goodbye First Love (or Un Amour de Jeunesse) is the latest film from writer / director Mia Hansen-LÃ¸ve. Loosely autobiographical, it tells the story of Camille, a teenage girl who is desperately in love with her older boyfriend, Sullivan. However, he is dropping out of university in order to travel around South America. This awareness hangs over their relationship and they fight and make up until the inevitable point at which he leaves. Sullivan’s letters get more and more sporadic until the point that they peter out entirely, prompting Camille to despair. The film picks up at various points in the following few years, as Camille tries to get on with life without Sullivan, and what happens when they finally meet again.
Hansen-LÃ¸ve’s movie owes a clear debt to New Wave cinema, and at times reminded me of the work of Eric Rohmer. Well, sort of “ like Rohmer’s films Goodbye First Love features quite a lot of not much action, and people having intense conversations. The focus is on the internal lives of the characters rather than being particularly plot driven. But Rohmer’s films, like the Four Seasons movies, while slow paced, are beautiful and touching in a way that’s hard to define or explain, whilst the main feature of Goodbye First Love is, unfortunately, that it’s just really really boring.
The love between the two main characters is meant to be this grand amour “ an all-consuming, life defining love. However, in early scenes when they are teenagers, she comes as self-absorbed and surly, while he comes across as just wanting to get laid as much as possible. When they’re not having sex they just bicker and the relationship seems like exactly the kind of thing that Camille will simply grow out of and look back on fondly, though with a slight embarrassment that she could be so utterly absorbed by someone. The dialogue is full of overblown expressions of love like ˜you are within me like a sickness that I cannot be rid of’ and when Camille goes to university to study architecture, some of the statements about the nature of the subject are stunningly pretentious. And sadly, the characters don’t really grow any more appealing or interesting as they grow older.
There’s even a scene in which Camille and Sullivan go to the movies and on leaving he complains that the film was boring, but she tells him that actually it was beautiful but he just doesn’t get it. It’s hard to tell if this is coincidence or some strange attempt to head criticism of the film off at the pass “ either way, the scene feels like a real misjudgement.
Sometimes it’s quite good fun to write a really scathing review. But this is only really the case when it’s some kind of designed-by-committee Hollywood blockbuster, made with no heart, just with the aim to part as many people as possible with their hard earned money. Or anything directed by Michael Bay. In these situations, trashing a movie can be quite satisfying. But Goodbye First Love is not that kind of film, it must have been a painstaking process to scrape together the money to get it made, and was almost certainly a labour of love for those involved. So it doesn’t give me any pleasure to say that, for me at least, it was a real failure. For a slow paced movie that packs a real emotional punch, I’d recommend checking out Rohmer’s back catalogue instead.