Goodbye First Love: Headlong Teen Passion in France

Writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve's life-inspired feature begins in 1999, when protagonist Camille (Lola Créton), a highly emotional high-school girl in love, is 15, and tracks her through her mid-20s as she's establishing a career. We first follow Camille through her all-consuming romance with Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), a slightly older dreamboat. He scoots around Paris on a bike and visits her by appearing, suddenly, at her bedroom window. He adores her but remains enigmatic; while she lives for their moments together, he's looking to his future. When Sullivan takes off on a backpacking trip to South America, leaving Camille behind to finish high school, she's devastated; their attempts to keep in touch only push Camille deeper into depression. She hits bottom—and then with a cut, Hansen-Løve jumps a few years ahead. Now an architecture student living in a romantically cramped garret apartment, Camille starts seeing Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke), the 40-something bohemian-genius prof who helped awaken her intellect much as Sullivan flipped a switch and turned on her feelings. "I have a vocation," Camille writes in her diary. "Isn't that enormous?" Emboldened by this new "reason to live," Camille puts the past behind her. And then the past, in the form of Sullivan, comes back. Like Hansen-Løve's last film, Father of My Children, Goodbye First Love loosely fictionalizes lived experience (the director's) in order to capture the ineffable—in this case, emotional maturation, or, as Sullivan phrases it, "becom[ing] a real person."

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