Written by: Mia Hansen-Løve
Starring: Lola Créton, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Magne-Håvard Brekke, Valérie Bonneton
Nearly inexplicable at times, the grip love has on our emotional well-being can at times just be straight-up harmful. It can lie between euphoric love and disastrous heartbreak but the burning fire, either way, makes the journey worth the potential consequences. With this in mind, Goodbye First Love examines a particular stranglehold held by one’s very first lighter of passions and how it may be impossible for it to be matched by any other down the line. This emotionally complex journey yearns for connection and utilizes its foundation to tease out a resonant story.
As a teen, Camille (Lola Créton) falls for the slightly older Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky). The two embark on a passionate affair before Sullivan heads out for a trip. As their relationship fizzles into a break, Camille must learn to move on with her life, which proves to be much more difficult than she could ever anticipate.
Young love certainly burns bright and this incessant passion flows through Camille as we follow her through this journey of heartbreak and growth. She captures this youthful vigor for the person she loves and she cannot fathom a world without him in it. A lovely thought for sure but when this thought of forever does not pan out, which will likely be the case for two individuals so young, the pain can be incalculable. Camille’s journey truly captures it all and the pain she feels when things do not go according to plan with Sullivan is all too real. Anyone who has been in a similar situation can very much feel the pain this protagonist must endure. This feeling throughout is where this film finds its success.
There will be two types of individuals watching this film, those who can connect with Camille’s pain and those who just want her to get over it and move on. With both being equally valid, it all serves as a learning moment for this young woman as she navigates following what the heart yearns for versus protecting it from more pain. A terrible balance with rewards and pain in close proximity to each other. No matter what pain may have occurred between them, Sullivan remains the first love of her life and this cannot just be easily moved on from, especially at her age. We’ve all been teenagers who thought the world was over from the slightest of inconveniences, but now imagine thinking you’ve lost your one love in life. Devastating and it gets captured in such a deft and empathetic manner.
The audience’s opinion does not necessarily matter in this feature, because it all becomes about Camille’s journey and the singular focus this film takes along with the performance of Lola Créton helps center it in such a meaningful way. Sure, you as the audience member may not think Sullivan is worth all of the pain Camille goes through but through her eyes, she sees someone who completes her and remains and the battery of her system operating. Seriously, love just does the most painful of things to people and this film only further seeks to confirm it all.
Working as a coming-of-age feature in an unconventional manner, Mia Hansen-Løve continues to demonstrate her incisive ability to cut through the defenses of her characters and show the pain, especially those they hide from those around them. She allows Camile to be a fully realized character with aspirations, dreams, and most importantly, a heart able to be broken and mended with time. Hansen-Løve has such a soft touch through her direction and rightfully so as it captures such a delicate time in her protagonist’s life as Camille needs to learn about the pain life can bring when one chooses to fall in love and how it does indeed go on. A lesson everyone has to learn at some point, but it does not mean the initial blow still does not hurt like a ton of bricks landing on one’s chest.
A wonderful collaboration of writer/director and star, Goodbye First Love comes together as a labor of love about a story centered on that very emotion. The story contains a beautiful simplicity while dealing with the most complex emotion our soul has to handle on a daily basis. Narratively, it deals with something everyone will eventually encounter, unless one lives the perfect life, which most likely represents the smallest of fractions of the human population. This renders the story to be universal in its themes as it can be seen as a battle of more than love. It also becomes about the attrition of life and how when what we hold dear gets crushed into smithereens, it does not necessarily mean it cannot be put together, even if it takes longer than anticipated. Truly a moving piece of art and one that still aches my heart when thinking of Camille’s journey.