Mia Hansen-Løve portrays chaos of youthful love in ‘Goodbye First Love’

Two people stand under a tree, in a field, as one of them reaches to pick a berry falling from a low hanging branch.
Carole Bethuel/Courtesy

Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Goodbye First Love” is a portrait of a love poked and prodded by the fickleness of youth. It is an ode to the impatience and curiosity that accompany inexperience and ride on the coattails of fleeting moments and greener grasses. Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) knows everything, while Camille (Lola Créton) knows only one thing — that she loves him with everything available to her in her innocence and naïveté.

The audience spends most of the film examining the barrier of discontent that Sullivan and Camille’s love for each other fails to reach across. For whom does the viewer root? For Sullivan, whose love for Camille cannot compete with his restlessness? Or for Camille, whose love for Sullivan suffocates beneath the weight of her need to keep him?

The film privileges the audience with the benefit of not having to make that decision. And yet the sound of the empty mailbox closing each time Camille doesn’t receive a letter is the same as the audience’s heart breaking for her. The distance between them grows too great to be sustained by amorous promises empty of experience — Camille’s affection is too rigid to stretch without breaking, and that in turn destroys her. Her heartbreak stunts her growth, locking her in a vicious cycle in which she continuously chases after things she simply cannot tie down.

Camille says to her new point of fixation, “I have to do things twice, so they stick in my memory,” and the audience suffers for her.

When Sullivan enters Camille’s life again, it is evident that it will only be for a brief moment in time. When he is with her, Sullivan’s presence is a hot knife, cauterizing a wound he has opened. When he leaves again, Camille is left only to bleed. As Camille chases the hat that Sullivan gave her all those years ago, it is clear that, one way or another, she will be chasing him for the rest of her life.

But as painful as Camille’s journey is for the audience to experience, “Goodbye First Love” is completely aware of its own effect. The film is ultimately an aching ballad of the violence, the trauma and the art of suffering for love.

Contact Areyon Jolivette at [email protected].