Camille (Lola Créton) and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) are young lovers, consumed by the power of their passion for each other. Unfortunately, Sullivan intends to go through with his plan to head to South America for ten months of study and self-discovery. This absence pulls their relationship apart as correspondence wanes and, years later, Camille is a trainee architect in a serious relationship with a much older colleague. A chance meeting brings their lives together again and soon old feelings rumble to the surface.
One thing that can certainly be said about Goodbye First Love is that it is a beautiful film to look at. Director Mia Hansen-Løve fills every shot with the natural beauty of the movie’s French setting, with an early scene involving an idyllic country cottage being an aesthetic highlight, along with the ambiguous final shot on the banks of the Seine.
However, the beauty of the film is only skin deep: the stunning shots linked together by a formulaic romance plot plucked straight from dozens of other works. The idea of young lovers pushed together again over time is reminiscent of David Nicholls’ One Day and, with the film adaptation of that only being released last year, it all feels a little too familiar.
It doesn’t help that the two lead characters are desperately unlikeable. Créton’s young girl spouts naïve platitudes about how deeply in love she is whilst looking like she has never experienced a single flicker of enjoyment in her entire existence. Her later sexual promiscuity only serves to add yet another irritating layer to her personality; although, I can hardly blame her for her unhappiness given how much of a douchebag Urzendowsky’s character is. He seems to take great pleasure in shagging Camille senseless repeatedly before buggering off to find himself or something like that and constantly acts like an inconsiderate fool.
I’m unsure whether it’s the fault of the actors that these characters are so infuriating, but it was impossible to warm to any of the film’s romance when I hated the characters so much. They aren’t helped by Hansen-Løve’s script, which seems to consist of trite speeches about the nature of love and very little else.
There are smart moments and elegant touches, such as Camille plotting her beau’s progress on a map of South America before methodically pulling her diagram apart as their relationship disintegrates. But these touches are not common enough to elevate the movie above the mediocrity thrust upon it by its awful characterisation. It also seems as if they almost didn’t bother with an ending and decided simply to provide a note of ambiguity in the hope that people would think it was clever. And people have.
Ultimately then, Goodbye First Love is a film that purports to be a musing on the nature of young love’s indelible mark on the soul. However, it’s actually an emotionally lacking drama that hides its infuriating characters and lazy plotting behind gorgeous cinematography and competent direction.
I’m afraid this one is just a pretty face.