Sporting a feel similar to partner Olivier Assayas's family drama "Summer Hours" (in fact, it almost seems like 'Goodbye' picks up right where the aforementioned ends), we drop in on the adolescent Parisian lovers Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) and Camille (Lola Créton) after copulation. It's not explicitly stated how long the two have actually been courting one another, but the attitude of their relationship (fights at the drop of a hat, comfortable-yet-unhappy) suggest a rather lengthy amount of time. To make things worse, Sullivan is planning an extensive trip to South America with a friend, which translates as "inevitable break-up" to Camille. Despite their adorable penchant for sneaking out of the house to be with one another and an impromptu mini-vacation to the countryside, these problems loom overhead and drain the tender affection out of their remaining time together.
Because the filmmaker starts at the tail-end of their relationship, we automatically take a critical stance of their consociation. To some extent, it's nice to have this kind of different perspective on teeny-bopper love, but by discarding the charm of their initial attraction and cheery romance, our only investment in the two whittles down to simple head-shakes and eye-rolls. Their bond together is portrayed in such a negative, matter-of-fact light that it almost feels helmed in a very condescending way. While there's definitely plenty of stories that do fine without emotional commitment from the audience, this kind of plot absolutely necessitates one. The absence of affection makes the characters' actions a tad irritating, and it as a whole lacks any sort of substantial impact thanks to the director's refusal to show the couple at happier times and reluctance to embrace any sort of guileless behavior. You don't have to go Spielberg on us, but there is something undeniably beautiful and rare when love is borne out of innocence. When you eschew that, you're overlooking a huge aspect of being a youth; the perspective is marred by bitterness.
It's hard to say what this overly-serious investigation of puerile passion is ultimately trying to say. By curbing Sullivan to focus on Camille solo, prying into her reluctance to ultimately move on from him, Hansen-Løve is either making a statement that this boy had a hand in who she eventually became, or in broader terms, is analyzing the way some people refuse to let go of feelings long gone. Maybe it's simply supposed to show the reality of how long it takes to get over a person that was once pined for. Either way you spin it, it's not much to chew on, and its inability to affect makes "Goodbye First Love" even more disappointing. The "Father of my Children" director's reflection on early amour and its long-lasting power is much too distant, taking out the enchantment without analyzing deep enough to make up for it. [C]
This is a reprint of our review from the New York Film Festival.