by Francesca McCaffery
Goodbye, First Love, the beautiful, new film by Mia Hansen-Love (Father of My Children) tells the tale of two young lovers, Camille (Lola Creton) and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), and their hard serious and young, first romance. Sullivan is a charismatic, sweet and sensual free spirit, darting in and out of Camille’s life, although he appears to completely adore her when they are together. Camille is very earnest and quite dramatic about her intense, romantic feelings towards him. The film then explores how Camille manages to get over this great young love, truly find herself, and create a definitive, singular life for herself. The film is so simple, so dazzling in this observation, that you feel almost anyone could relate to the blistering feeling of first love. It feels like one’s very own memory of relationships past writ large onscreen. The director captures this feeling of living memory with superb brilliance and care- the painstaking bittersweet feeling of knowing these moments will not last forever, but having the knowledge you will never, ever forget them. She manages to infuse the two young actor’s performances with both innocence and a passion that seems perfectly true and heart-breaking. When Sullivan goes off traveling to South America, feeling a bit smothered by the weight of Camille’s great love for him, Creton, with her sensually blank face filled with despair and longing both, makes us feel every second of this separation.
And, as first loves often drag out, in consciousness or real life, Hansen-Love jumps to Camille in architecture school years later as a young student, still not connecting with a new love, still pretty sad and longing for Sullivan.
The filmmaker somehow conveys Camille in the process of showing up for hew own life, without those cloying “blossoming” scenes of harried montage seen in so many lesser films, but through the character’s own effort, will and the passage of time. Camille does, in fact, begin to heal, and starts an affair with sexy, older professor Lorenz (cool guy Magne- Håvard Brekkeand) Camille also starts building a genuine, solid life for herself. Her new love interest helps ease this transition- but Camille is the one living through and getting past it. On her own.
Especially as a woman, I simply have to say, I really loved this film. One’s interior life is filled with these moments all the time- longing and fulfillment, frustration and fascination. Hanson-Love weaves these often painful moments together, which quickly turn into years, (as in life) in a way that is truly cinematic, in the best sense. Threads of memory, an old hat a lover gave you, the light glancing off a river where you once swam with him…Yes, we can survive anything, Hansen-Love seems to be telling us. Even the end of love.