Still from Goodbye First Love (2011) — Image via pelleas.fr

Goodbye First Love

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (2011)

In Goodbye First Love (Un amour de jeunesse), Mia Hansen-Løve takes on the challenge of telling a story about a teenage relationship and its aftermath without romanticism or condescension, demonstrating respect for both her characters and her audience.

Goodbye First Love portrays events occurring over eight years, and Hansen-Løve takes a fluid and often vague approach to conveying the passage of time. That being said, the bulk of the story lingers on three episodes in the young life of Camille (Lola Créton). In the first part, 15-year-old Camille is crushed when her new, older boyfriend Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) presses forward with his plan to travel across South America with his friends, leaving her behind. In the second part, Camille — now a college student — discovers a passion for architecture, accompanied by a new relationship with one of her professors, Lorenz (Magne Håvard Brekke). In the third part, Camille and Lorenz are now living together and trying to have a baby when a chance encounter brings Camille back in contact with Sullivan, forcing her to decide whether there is still a place for him in her life.

One of the most striking things about Goodbye First Love is the way Hansen-Løve allows the actors, the images and the soundtrack to establish presences that are not entirely determined by the story. She does not cut away from an interaction or an image once the “point” of the scene is established, nor does the mood of the music always perfectly align with what is going happening on the screen. All of this contributes to a unique sort of naturalism, in which viewers are constantly being thrown just a little bit off guard, kept from falling into complacency in the face of a narrative in which there are no particular twists.

Still from Goodbye First Love (2011) — Image via pelleas.frAnother notable aspect of the film is its treatment of the process by which Camille acquires an interest and eventually a career in architecture. In all too many films about people’s romantic lives, what those people do for a living is an afterthought, if it is mentioned at all. In Goodbye First Love, Camille’s life as a student and, later, her work at Lorenz’s architectural firm are treated with a welcome seriousness. Architecture is not solely a device for helping Camille discover a new relationship. Her work is portrayed as an integral aspect of her identity, making her more believable as a character.

Detractors have alleged that Goodbye First Love is painfully slow, an interesting description of a film that covers eight years in less than two hours. Presumably what they mean is that there is not a constant stream of plot benchmarks guiding viewers toward the conclusion. Those who are prepared to pay attention to what is going on between those benchmarks, however, should find plenty to enhance their appreciation of the film.

Originally posted on The 400 Blows

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.