Film Review: Goodbye First Love (2011)

A young man cycles the busy streets of Paris – his face masked by a black scarf ala Mick Travis in if…. (1968) – stops to buy condoms from a vending machine, and continues to his girlfriend’s house. Goodbye First Love, as its title suggests, is about the end of a relationship, so it’s a little exhausting being taken back to their “first time”, observing the beginning of the end.

14 year-old Camille (Lola Créton) says farewell to Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) who has decided to drop out of school and travel around South America. At first he writes often and she marks his destinations on a map with coloured pins, overseeing his expedition from home base in Paris. Then the letters dry up, and Camille becomes severely depressed. Sullivan is away for most of the film, and we don’t mind. He didn’t seem all that keen on her in the first place.

After a very long period of grief (so so long), her move into architecture is hopeful – a challenging, masculine profession – but her talent is informed only by her much older professor Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke) . Camille is mute. She knows herself by Sullivan’s sexual desire of her, from his old love letters (which are often about other women he is seeing) and then from Lorenz’ interest in her – which is just creepy. The old man looks like Riff-Raff from Rocky Horror.

The same actors play Camille and Sullivan from aged 14 to 24(?). Separating the 14 year-old with her teenage boyfriend from the young adult with her middle-aged boyfriend, is an immense challenge. She looks 14 the whole time. First pining over the boy she lost her virginity to and then accepting a father figure for a lover doesn’t appear to faze her, and makes he rest of the film baffling and annoying. Sullivan seeks challenges and new experiences and Camille just waits for someone else to love her. Her entire being is reactionary. Her nudity is unnecessary. Her body hair has more to say about her than she herself does. It’s sexist. Despite an often breathtaking aesthetic (the French countryside is captured beautifully), the film is un-motivated and backward in its ideas of women, which is despicable because it was written and directed by one. Teenagers who like masochism and subtitles will enjoy.

Goodbye First Love will be released theatrically April 5 through Palace Films.

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