French writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve portrays young love in a precise milieu reminiscent of Eric Rohmer.
Aged just 30, Mia Hansen-Løve has now produced three remarkable feature films, especially notable for their maturity.
For her second, 2009’s Father of My Children, she tackled the life of a middle-aged man and the effect of his death on his family. This time she reaches back further, to the youth of the original French title (Un Amour de Jeunesse) and the relationship of 15-year-old Camille (Lola Créton) and her boyfriend, Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky).
It is all-encompassing, a mystery to Camille’s mother (Valérie Bonneton), who feels her daughter was happier outside a relationship that seems to bring her nothing but worry and misery. Ever since her 2007 debut, All is Forgiven, Hansen-Løve’s films have been set in a determinedly bourgeois world. But compared with the patriarchal presence of Louis-Do de Lencquesaing in her second feature, Camille’s father is a hazy, nebulous figure.
The crux of the disagreement between Camille and her boyfriend is his determination to go to South America for 10 months to discover more of the world, and himself.
This inevitably implies the dissolution of their relationship. When Sullivan embarks on his travels, Camille struggles to find meaning in her life without him.
It’s tempting to read too much into the film’s title, whether in French or English, but Hansen-Løve roams beyond this seemingly callow relationship. She skips forward a few years, and then again, to reveal the devastating effect on Camille of her first passion. Unable to connect, Camille gradually reasserts herself through her architecture studies. As with Father, Goodbye could be said to be a film of two halves: the director pursues Camille’s newfound interest with an almost eccentric fervour.
The audience is immediately alert to the presence of her Norwegian professor, Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke), who draws Camille out of her shell. With her sharp eyes, Créton is initially an animal-like presence, crawling over her lover. She is shown in the nude with her young boyfriend but never with the new, older partner, a curious form of discretion.
A chance encounter with Sullivan’s mother on the bus allows the young couple to meet again, this time when Lorenz heads off to Arabia. There are nods to the film’s Frenchness – a debate on cinema, and a strike that disrupts Camille’s plans – but Goodbye is marked by its authenticity.
The manner in which Hansen-Løve portrays young relationships in a precise milieu is reminiscent of Eric Rohmer. Then there’s the influence of her mentor and partner, Olivier Assayas. As a one-time film critic and actress, she is right at the head of a new wave of other (notably female) French directors, including Katell Quillévéré (Love Like Poison) and Rebecca Zlotowski (Belle Épine).
One of French cinema’s most important young talents.
An honest, universal portrayal of early infatuation.
Hansen-Løve may have now purged a period of her life – where will she go next?