This Vanessa Paradis-starring dual narrative romantic drama is disappointing, frustrating nonsense.
The highly stylised first 20 minutes of Café de Flore are a disorientating experience. Such is Jean-Marc Vallée’s emphasis on the soundtrack, coupled with a series of striking images, it’s as if we’re flicking through different films with our headphones on.
Vallée, who directed C.R.A.Z.Y. in 2005, conjures up two very different love stories, 42 years apart and on two separate continents. In Paris, 1969, Vanessa Paradis’ Jacqueline gives birth to a son with Down’s syndrome, who she decides to bring up on her own. In present day Montreal, a successful DJ, Antoine (Kevin Parent), leaves his beautiful wife for the attractions of a hot new woman.
The former strand is definitely the stronger (Paradis and Marin Gerrier as her son both excel), with an especially nice feel for period detail. And while there may not have been enough in it to support a feature, Vallée takes a risk to pair it with Antoine’s story.
Any tension for the audience is in discovering what links these two tales, but it’s only towards the end of the two-hour runtime that the writer-director gives us an inkling. And it’s not enough.
There’s an idea here about how an individual reacts when they discover that the person they thought was ‘the one’ turns out to be someone else’s ideal, but Vallée fails to pull off strands so different and links so tenuous. The introduction of a spiritual element that verges on the horror genre is weak, even misleading.
In case you were imagining a heart-warming, Paris-set romance, the title comes from a song featured throughout the soundtrack by music boffin Matthew Herbert.
Vanessa Paradis in a stylised, time- and place-travelling drama can’t be bad, non?
You’ll stick with it to discover what links two disparate tales.
Disappointing, frustrating nonsense.