A Short Film About First Love

Un amour de jeunesse (Goodbye First Love, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2011)

(Spoilers in final paragraph)

So here the first love is between Camille (Lola Créton), 15, and Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), 19, and this doesn’t seem to bother anyone. He’s an artist, apparently, or a builder, possibly, but he’s going to drop out of university and go to South America for nine months. She’s going to sulk, because she doesn’t want him to go, and doesn’t seem to want to go either. Or he won’t let her.So, whilst he’s off channelling his inner Angel Clare, she goes through a series of objectifying jobs and trains to be an architect, taking up with a Norwegian architect. Lorenz (Magne Håvard-Brekke). Then Sullivan comes back.

In some ways this is as interesting for what Mia Hansen-Løve doesn’t show as much as she does. Camille seems to like older men — but Lorenz is much older. He’s as much married to his job as to his trophy apprentice, and keep having to go off to be hands-on star architect. Camille can’t live with them, can’t leave without them.

Sullivan, meanwhile, has got himself into a relationship which risks being unmanageable because of her apparent suffocating clinginess, and I can only assume he’s flattered by the attention. He’s not faithful when away from him, and perhaps he’s not much of a catch. It’d be easier to dislike if we knew he’d been unfaithful when with her.

The camerawork keeps suggesting something is going to happen — he rides a moped sans helmet, there might be some danger in South America, that faked heirloom might stir up something gangster and she keeps opening high windows, walking on unsafe roofs, swimming in fast rivers alone. But Hansen-Løve won’t give us the satisfaction of melodrama.

I guess it’s that blinding madness of the first crush — which you’d hope she’d learned to walk away from — which is too painful to commit to in case it fails.

Or perhaps that was just me.


On one of the surreptitious dates they have on his return, they bicker about the film they have just seen — he sees the characters as smug, full of pretentious dialogue. It’s a brave director who risks the same charge, and a brave director who lets the male character do the smart thing and decide what’s best for her — although it’s not clear if they will walk away from each other.

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