‘Cafe de Flore’. Love, its dizzying highs and lows, and everything else in between, in this brave, stunning, deeply affecting film.
I am still reeling from this thing, three hours later. What starts as two seemingly separate, simple stories about love, takes a very dark, spiritual turn, and in the process, explores “love” in its many forms.
I say two simple stories in relation to where the story goes, but they aren’t simple by any means.
It almost feels wrong to call the raw, incredible compassion shown by Jacqueline to her Down Syndrome son, Laurent “acting”. Vanessa Paradis is outstanding as a mother who has given all her love and devoted her life to her son, expecting nothing less than the same in return. The introduction of Vero, and Laurent’s “I love her like I love you” sets things unravelling.
The present day story is equally compelling, and thematically parallel in its telling of Carole, a woman like Jacqueline, who has only ever loved one person, but loses him to another, and cannot move on. They both still reminisce, and the way this whole film is edited, switching effortlessly between tones, stories and timeframes, is rather brilliant! Joyful, motherly love to a lost teen romance to the increasingly dark visions of Carole, that consistently unsettled me.
In the short time I’ve had to process this, I’ve thought about the ending in a couple of different ways. I didn’t know what to make of it at first, then felt the film would have worked just fine without connecting of the two storylines from a narrative perspective, bar Carole’s visions.
Then I thought about it again, and what Carole’s “sorry” to Antoine meant. This is a Carole that has come to terms with the connection, and what she did as Jacqueline to Laurent and Vero. This Carole has finally let go, understanding that love is sadly not 1:1.
I’d be amiss not to mention the soundtrack. It’s probably my favourite of the year to date. The characters, especially Laurent, and his reincarnate, Antoine, are linked via the track ‘Cafe de Flore’. Music means a lot to these two, translating naturally to the importance the soundtrack has to the audience.
The experience of being challenged by cinema is one I thoroughly enjoy. This is not easy going, but it’s damn rewarding.