Mia Hansen-Løve's third feature divides into three roughly equal sections. Paris, 1999: . fifteen-year-old Camille (Lola Créton) and nineteen-year-old Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) are in love. She spends all her time with him and, to the despair of her mother (Valérie Bonneton), for Camille he is The One. However, he is due to leaving on a trip to South America with two friends and cannot be dissuaded from going. After a summer together with Camille, Sullivan departs, and soon his letters trickle to a halt. In despair, Camille tries to kill herself. Four years later, Camille is studying architecture and supporting herself with part-time work. She goes on a study trip and there she and her professor Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke) fall in love. Then, another four years later, she meets Sullivan again...
Goodbye First Love (not a literal translation of the French title, Un amour de jeunesse) is, like Hansen-Løve's previous feature Father of My Children, partly autobiographical in inspiration. It's undrestandable to see echoes in Camille and Lorenz's romance of Hansen-Løve's relationship with her partner Olivier Assayas, twenty-six years her senior, particularly as they met by working together, namely by her acting in two of his films. It's understandable but also besides the point. Both films tell stories about people we recognise, either as similar to ourselves or to people we know (or both), but avoid overfamiliarity by means of the sensitivity and attention to emotional detail with which they are told. Girl loves boy but he doesn't love her back, or won't commit to her, is an age-old story, but here it's an honest, unsentimental and moving one. The performances help considerably, particularly Lola Créton's as Camille. Born in 1993, Créton (who played a leading role in Cathérine Breillat's Bluebeard two years before this) is in the middle of the age-range she is asked to portray, but does so admirably, with subtle use of body language conveying the gaining of years and experience.
Hansen-Løve's direction isn't showy, but it does work in some subtle use of symbolism (water, for example, and keep an eye on that straw hat) and the pacing is unhurried but assured. This is further evidence that she is one of the best younger directors in Europe at the moment. Having released her second and third features, could Artificial Eye possibly do the same with her first, Tout est pardonné?
This is a review of the DVD release of Goodbye First Love, and affiliate links refer to that edition. For affiliate links for the Blu-ray edition, go here. The DVD release is dual-layered and encoded for Region 2 only. It begins with two commercials for Curzon Cinemas and their Curzon On Demand service. These cannot be fast-forwarded, but can be skipped.
Goodbye First Love was shot in Super 35 and the DVD transfer is in the correct ratio of 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced. It's an excellent transfer, sharp and colourful, capturing both wintry Paris and the countryside in the summer. Blacks are solid and shadow detail is fine.
The soundtrack, mostly in French with occasional lines in English, German and Danish, comes with two option soundtrack mixes, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Surround (2.0). There's not much to choose between these options, as the film's sound design is as unshowy as its visuals. Surrounds are used mostly for ambience, and the subwoofer particularly kicks in during a scene showing Camille working part-time at a nightclub. The 2.0 option is mixed louder than the 5.1. English subtitles are optional.
The only extra is is the trailer (1:46), which is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and is visually much contrastier than the feature.