A romance/drama by C.R.A.Z.Y director Jean-Marc Vallee, this Canadian production defies all narrative conventions and offers a wholly fresh representation on the most tired of cinematic features - love. Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) lives in France at the end of the 60s. She’s a single mother, her partner having run out the door after realising his first-born son Laurent has Down Syndrome. Antoine (Kevin Parent) lives in present day Montreal with his new girlfriend Rose and is constantly being hounded by his ex-wife and teenage sweetheart Carole. The film cuts beautifully between the two parallel storylines and avoids alienation between the narratives and it’s only at the end that we learn how the two time periods are connected. Much like this year’s excellent local product Burning Man a, Café De Flore is a fragmented story told using rapid-cut editing and it requires an editor with real vision to achieve it successfully.
The greatest achievement this film has to offer, besides the greatest soundtrack of the year, is the portrayal of its characters in the face of loss. They’re so fantastically fucking normal. There are no vacant stares out of rainy windows here. Vanessa Paradis needs to be cast in everything. She has a certain charm and likeability that’s not purely skin deep that masks a wall of paranoia and fear for her son. All Jacqueline wants is to care for Laurent, a factor not helped by the removal of her partner. She’s completely alone in the world and when Laurent expresses feelings for a classmate (at the tender age of 7) she panics and goes into survival mode, doing everything possible to keep him with her.
Alongside this, Kevin Parent impresses as Antoine, the DJ who has hit the reset button on his life at the cost of causing an intense depression for his ex-wife Carol, Helene Florent. His story is intercut with a psychiatrist session that borders on a talking head moment, explaining his emotions and history and justifying his actions. It’s probably the only cheating moment in the film yet oddly necessary considering how complicated the editing process must have been to make such a non-linear film comprehensible.
The whole film is a sizzling delicacy of aural and visual delight, a welcome one considering the constant stench Hollywood offers in the romance field. This film deserves to be as big as Amelie and offers something for everyone, from latte-swirling hipsters to casual filmgoers. When you do though, make sure the speakers are loud. You’ll thank me later.
Nicholas Brodie - follow Nick on Twitter here: @fodusempire
Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Written by: Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Helene Florent, Evelyn Brochu
Café De Flore is now available on DVD and Blu Ray everywhere.