Goodbye First Love (2011) Poster

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Torn Between Two Men
Chris_Pandolfi20 April 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Because it makes no grand gestures, "Goodbye First Love" is a deceptively simple movie. Essentially, it tells the story of a young woman torn between two men, both of whom she loves deeply but in completely different ways. Its simplicity is cleverly masked by a rather unconventional style, which is about as far removed from a Hollywood romance as it can be. The film flows rather organically, with most of the traditional cinematic enhancements stripped away. It's less about plot and drama and more about character. It may not be immediately apparent, but we are witnessing a person on the road towards maturity. This isn't to suggest she began at innocence, nor that she will end up understanding everything; all we know is that she's in the process of becoming.

Her name is Camille (Lola Créton). When we first meet her, it's 1999, and she's a fifteen-year-old living with her parents in Paris. She's having an intensely physical affair with a teenage boy named Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky), who has given up on school. Despite their repeated assertions that they each are the love of their lives, they argue very easily. This is easy to explain: They're both still young and naïve, and they don't yet know what they want out of life. Sullivan yearns to experience the world and plans a trip to South America with a friend of his. Camille is threatened by his wanderlust and continuously threatens to harm herself. If he leaves, he may forget about her entirely and meet another girl. She claims that she's not looking for anything more than him.

Sullivan assures her that he will only be gone for ten months and that he'll keep in touch. And so, off he goes. Camille copes as best she can as it transitions into 2000, receiving the occasional letter from Sullivan. In all his letters, he continues his practice of boldly asserting his love for her. They are, in fact, so bold that they come within an inch of being cruel and emotionally manipulative. In one letter, he tells with, rather poetically, that his love for her is holding him back. If he wasn't so in love with her, if she didn't plague his thoughts on a daily basis, he might actually enjoy his travels. Quite suddenly, the letters stop coming. A devastated Camille soon ends up in a depression clinic, at which point her father (Serge Renko) tells her that it's finally time to take the next step.

Never once do follow Sullivan, whose stay in South America lasts much longer than ten months. We do, however, follow Camille over the next seven years. During this time, she finishes high school, attends a design college, studies architecture, and lands a job at a company run by a Norwegian architect named Lorenz (Magne Håvard Brekke), who's separated from his wife in Berlin and seemingly estranged from his son. We see their relationship develop from employer and employee to casual acquaintances to emotional confidants to lovers. He may not express his love for Camille quite as vocally as Sullivan would have, but it's obvious that he cares for her deeply. She too cares about him. It isn't the same as it was with Sullivan, though. There's more than just physical affection; there's a clear understanding of who they are.

It isn't until 2007 that Camille and Sullivan finally reunite. An exact date is not given, but it seems he had returned from South America quite a while ago. He now gets by as a photographer in Marseille, which he likes much better than Paris. Initially, it seems like their relationship has cooled and that they will continue merely as friends. But after a while, it's obvious that the old feelings have resurfaced. I expected this from Camille, but I have to admit, I didn't expect it from Sullivan. Memories of her continue to haunt him, and at one point, he tearfully wishes that they were back together. When Lorenz is called away on business, Camille and Sullivan regularly convene and make love, all the while sensing that what they're experiencing isn't likely to last.

Having gone this far in my review, I fear that I've made this movie sound like a sentimental tearjerker. It's almost impossible to conceive of given the subject matter, but "Goodbye First Love" is about as devoid of sentiment as it could possibly be. Rather than indulge in fairytale contrivances, love and relationships are examined in terms of very plausible, very concrete physical and emotional needs. All leads to an indirect and rather languid ending, which is actually treated less like an ending and more like just another scene. As realistic as this may be, my innate American sensibilities had me longing for something a little more distinct. I'm not saying everything had to be wrapped up in neat little package, although some sense of closure would have been nice.

-- Chris Pandolfi (
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Paints a striking picture of the impact of first love
howard.schumann18 November 2012
Most of us at one time or another have experienced the sacramental beauty of loving another being. Love, however, defies analysis and often does not fit our pictures. From an outsider's point of view, there are more unlikely couples than likely ones, but those who are not in the lover's shoes may be unable to fully understand their feelings. Camille (Lola Créton), in Mia Hansen-Love's third feature Goodbye First Love, is repeatedly told by parents and friends to forget the young man who claims to love her for eternity, but then leaves abruptly on a trip to "discover himself." That she is unable to let go is not a sign of immaturity or madness, but only of the depth of her love and the betrayal she feels.

The 17-year-old Créton (Something in the Air) is stunning both in her appearance and her ability as an actress. There is never a moment when it feels that she is just playing a role rather than being herself. Hansen-Love, herself only thirty one, paints a striking picture of the impact of first love. When Camille meets and falls for the bland 19-year-old Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) at the age of fifteen, her first involvement is both joyous and heartbreaking. To Camille, Sullivan is her world and she is obsessed with him. Overly dramatic, she threatens that if he leaves her, she will "jump into Seine." He responds by saying that "If you cut your hair, I'll kill you," presumably sparing her the trouble of jumping into the Seine. Sullivan's relationship with Camille, though tender, lacks commitment.

For him, it feels as if love is a good idea but not something he feels in his bones and the chemistry between the two is missing in subtlety and depth. On vacation in the idyllic Ardèche region of Southern France, Sullivan dumps on her, relating his plans to drop out of school and backpack through South America for ten months with friends. Obviously, the "friends" part of it does not include Camille. When he is on his trip, she follows his journey via his letters and pushes pins into a map to mark his whereabouts. Though he promises to begin again where they left off, he soon writes to her that he wants to be free. Camille takes it hard, very hard and as time melts away, she is no closer to acceptance than the day she received the news.

Hansen-Love does not give us much information as to the passage of time, but we know that years have passed during which Camille has gone to school to study architecture and has begun to build a new life with Lorenz (Magne Håvard Brekke), a considerably older professor of Architecture. Growing in maturity, she has become a young professional, having apparently moved on from Sullivan, that is, until he comes back into her life, seemingly unchanged both physically and emotionally. Goodbye First Love can be meandering without much happening in the way of narrative and the jumpiness of the editing can be frustrating.

Hansen-Love rarely stays with one scene (especially the love-making scenes) long enough for us to feel any deepening involvement, yet the film succeeds in capturing the extreme mood swings of adolescence with sensitivity and we can relate to the emotional pain a breakup can cause when people's feelings are treated in a cavalier fashion. What also works is the eclectic soundtrack that features Patrick Street, Violeta Parra, Matt McGinn, Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling, music that adds another dimension to the film. While it is not a "message film," what comes through for me in Goodbye First Love is the Buddhist idea that the origin of suffering is attachment to things that are impermanent such as desire and passion. Nirvana, however, is not always comprehensible for those who are fifteen years old.
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arash_mh2000010 December 2013
one of the best romance movie I've ever seen. it shows a story of an ordinary girl in Paris that her first love had some effect on her. Cammile believes in her love and always says she can't live without love. she's just a 15-year-old girl when finds her love and wants to keep it forever. but, the boy left him and pursue his happiness without her. throughout the movie, we don't hear much dialogs. but the different scenes talk to us about the life of the main character. Cammile is not kinda girl who mingle with different people or be talkative. you can just find out her feelings from her eyes. this movie is good for whom wants to see the real life of people. you cannot expect happen something thrilling or extraordinary from this movie. it just shows us the truth of life. someone may dislike the movie because of the slow pace of the movie. however, this is the feature of this kinda films. the slow pace lets you think about the feelings of the main character at the mean time. it ends in the best way that you can't anticipate it before. everything was natural and I really enjoyed it.
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Moving on
paul2001sw-14 July 2017
One of the first things you notice in Mia Love-Hansen's film, 'Goodbye First Love', is that the supposedly fifteen year old protagonist looks much older; it turns out, there's a reason for this, which is that the drama is going to follow her over several years, so the age of the actress was necessarily a compromise. In fact, the film is conceptually not dissimilar (though heterosexual, and less generally ambitious) from 'Blue is the Warmest Colour': a sensitive and well-drawn story about a talented, attractive young woman whose life is overshadowed by the memory of an intense early relationship. As in real life, when someone is pointlessly in love with someone who does not desire them, you partly want to scream "get over it!", especially when they have obvious advantages they could be exploiting; but humans aren't that simple, although the ending is a touch underwhelming, the story is nicely observed. And if you generally like emotional films about beautiful young Parisiennes, you'll like this one too.
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I would never understand...
hhnd_200221 July 2014 a boy loves his girlfriend so much, thinks about her every day, yet leaves her for an eternity, knowing that it will break her heart, without thinking twice.

As if unaware of her suffering (though in fact he is), he talks about being with other girls (while still thinking about her). Yet love is just that, it's incomprehensible, and any attempt to explain, to rationalize it is a futile effort. It's easy to judge the character Sullivan as an irresponsible adolescent who just had it too good and went off to search for hardship in an attempt to ward off boredom (in English there's a word for people like him, I think it might be "jerk"). Yet one can't deny that he indeed loves Camille, probably as much as she loves him, if love can be measured, but just in an entirely different way. Just like what the two of them had come to terms with when they were reunited that the only thing they can agree on is that they always disagree, the ways they think, live, and even love, is the two polarizing ends of the spectrum. As viewers, it's easy to judge Sullivan, yet Camille never does. She takes him for who he is, she understands and accepts his actions as best as she could, while of course being unable to bear the emotions that any "normal" person would feel being dumped for no reason, out of nowhere, for an unknown period of time.

But maybe, just maybe, Sullivan just didn't know what to do with the kind of love they had for each other, when he himself didn't know who he was, what he wanted to do, what he wanted from life. Extremely selfish, yes. Despicable? Hardly. Everyone has the right to "discover" themselves on their own, yet still not lose the person they love. Of course that's not exactly how life works, and many young people in fact experience the same ending for their first love. When they were old enough to love, and too young to know what to do with it. Yet it is difficult to forget, once you have loved.

Yes, the movie is slow and nothing happens (that you weren't able to predict). If that's not your cup of tea, please go watch something exciting, because life sure isn't.
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A not altogether successful reminder of former glories
jandesimpson21 February 2015
There are times when I long for a great new film from France. Gone it seems are the days of Goretta, Chabrol, Truffaut, Malle and Bresson. Sometimes Techine rises to it, but only just. I was reminded a few days ago of what we are missing when I caught up with Mia Hansen-Love's "Goodbye First Love", a film that conveys the ecstasy and pangs of adolescent passion with a delicacy that the French so often manage to achieve with such effortless ease. In short, this could not have come from any other country. I watched the first third which follows the intense relationship of eighteen year old Sullivan and the younger Camille with something of the excitement of rediscovery. Hansen-Love's direction has a fluency and pace that perfectly match the breakneck quality of an affair teetering on the edge of uncertain fulfilment. When Sullivan departs with his mates on a South American backpacking trip Camille is distraught. Her slow recovery and recognition of a different type of love in her relationship with her mature architecture teacher, Lorenz, form the central part of the film. Unfortunately with the absence of a frenetic passion something of the vitality of the first third is lessened and the film becomes an altogether more mundane affair that even Sullivan's return several months later cannot quite rescue from the occasional yawn. What I imagined from the beginning might prove to be a re-run into "La Dentelliere" country ends up as something far less substantial in quality. Today's French cinema, although often still quite distinctive in style, sadly lacks a director of the calibre of those men from the past.
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Louis Garrel recently made his first feature film as director, Le Petit Tailleur, in an interview afterwards he admitted that his film was of a Paris that did not exist anymore, where the young went to the theatre to see Kleist. His film, as this one, contains a nostalgia for the New Wave. This is tacitly admitted in Goodbye First Love when Sullivan mentions that he went to a party in the suburbs where kids went to have sex and take drugs, a piece of shrapnel that doesn't fit in the jigsaw of this movie. The young of the developed world live with their eyes burnt out.

Goodbye First Love tells the story of Camille, in love with Sullivan, and how she copes with losing that love and moving on with her life. There's something pristine about the way that young animals love and lust together, narcotic and somewhat illusory, but on the threshold of paradise; and actually the most astonishing part of the film practically occurs in an Eden. One its successes is the casting of two actors who have an obvious sexual compatibility, which lends credibility to the treatment.

Mature love comes, but lies in the cradle of shared creativity and mutual respect, which should represent a superannuation of first love; but flesh is not just. For Camille, riding on the pannier rack of Sullivan's bicycle and grasping his body will always be the seed of her crystal.

Goodbye First Love, by the way, is an incredible aesthetic treat (my favourite part may well have been when the two rake over the ashes of their love, lying together likes ravens in a shattered tower, all a creation of capturing colour carefully). I felt privileged to have watched it, to have been let inside what's a meagerly-camouflaged auto-biography from Mia Hansen-Løve. I may well love and be loved back one day, but it won't be the Hamelin song that Mia has let me see, and I'm grateful to her for this facsimile.
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A plodding yet decent romantic drama
adamscastlevania220 February 2015
(57%) If you close your eyes and imagine a modestly budgeted French film centred around the love and loss of Parisian girl, then this is almost certainly what you'd have in mind. In a very similar form to that of 2013's Blue is the warmest colour, this takes the more realistic route to express itself. So expect lots of scenes in which hardly anything happens, a purposefully plodding pace, and characters that live and breathe more in reality of everyday life rather than the pages of a piece of fiction. The performances are subdued, and the script is penned back keeping everything in the realms of normality which does have its engrossing elements, but it also could make this an unbearable watch for some. After Boyhood went above and beyond to have its lead actor at the same age as the character, while this on the other hand has the issue of Lola Creton looking a bit too old to be 15 at the start of the film, and a bit too young looking to be high-rising architect by the second half. Boyhood really has spoilt us. The relationship at the heart of the film is undoubtedly idyllic, sometimes a little too idyllic, but unlike the better Blue is the warmest colour this isn't as painful to watch when things start to go rough. Fans of realistic romantic drama should give this a look, but those who like explosions and fistfights need not apply.
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An effort gone wrong.
shahroze-khan114 July 2012
Being a fan of French cinema, Goodbye first love was a terrible disappointment. I had to witness some very abrupt cuts throughout the movie. The characteristic of female protagonist gets monotonous within just the first twenty minutes of watching which then continues for another 85 minutes. The movie lacked continuity throughout. The story which could have otherwise been presented beautifully has been treated awfully and looked more or less like a student's work which is yet to be reviewed and scrutinized by the professor. The story although based on a very common subject and not so different from many others that I've watched, lacked necessary details. There are sudden appearances and disappearances of characters(existing and new) without any necessary introduction or reason. I'm surprised as to how the producer managed to find the distributors. Not worth your time.
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Never Ending Love
johno-217 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I recently saw this at the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival. The story begins in 1999 as 15 year old Camille (Lola Créton) begins a sexual relationship with her first love Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky) who is a couple of years older than her. Sebastian has made plans to visit South America for a 10 week adventure with friends. Camille waits for his return and hopelessly misses him and tracks his moves on a map with pins from every letter she receives. The weeks turn into months and the letters dry up and as it seems evident that Sebastian has moves on, Camille's infatuation/love has morphed into manic depression over her inability to hold onto the fairytale bliss of first love. Five years go by and she is an architectural student and has begun the first relationship since Sebastian and this time it is with her professor, Lorenz (Magne-Håvard Brekke) a much older man who is from Denmark. After more time has passed, Camille is now living with Lorenz in Paris and runs into Sebastian who is visiting the city from Marseille where he has been living all these years since returning from South America. The sight of Sebastian fuels old feelings that never went away and Camille realizes she is still in love with him. this is the third feature film from actress turned writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve. The film looks good thanks to cinematographer Stéphane Fontain and production designer Mathieu Menut and comes with a wonderful soundtrack put together by music supervisor Pascal Mayer but this film never hits it's mark. The pace is slow, there are no dimensional performances, the acting is stiff, the script is weak and the story is kind of implausible. It almost sets itself up for a sequel but it's better to leave this, and unlike, Camille move on.
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not that dramatic realism
SnoopyStyle27 May 2015
It's Paris 1999. Camille is 15 and Sullivan is 19 and they're in love. He's dropping out of school to go off to South America without her. After awhile, he stops writing to her and she falls into a suicidal depression. Years later, she's in love with her professor Lorenz. She has an intense relationship with him and then Sullivan returns into her life.

This is a lot of young love without limits. This is a very french movie. The young leads play their part like any random young lovers. This is semi-realism. I don't particularly like the guy. The fact is that he leaves her behind which puts into question how much he truly loves her. He's callous to her feelings and she's an overwrought young girl. Their original romance is not that dramatic since the movie is just waiting for them to break up. I'm just not particularly in love with their love and it's a passable romance.
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Extremely boring and slow
adriangalvarez10 May 2012
One of the worst french films I have ever seen. The plot seemed interesting, and I have no doubt it could have been a much better film. But it is annoyingly slooooooooowwwww, I even watched 20 minutes at 2x (since I watched it subbed, I could read the subtitles either way) before definitely shutting it down. Full of meaningless scenes. It could have last 60 minutes and, perhaps, been a little better. I almost had a nervous breakdown due to its incredibly slooooowwwwww pace (I know I already said that, but I still cannot believe how slooooooooowwww it was). My recommendation... don't waste your time, go find another film.
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twincitytony23 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
i love french cinema this is a horrible example, you can take nothing away from it but your lost time, the young couple are attractive the guy is a deadbeat she refuses to accept it, she a architect, very unplausible dialogue makes no sense written on a 12 yo level bright people don't accept abuse or mistreatment more than once i don't care how big there parts are there money or there looks, the people that do either want abuse or are not too bright i guess french cinema is dumbing down now, this is been made by someone who did not listen in class, there reason i like movies from France is they don't fob off a load of crap like this. this is for the french people that thought jerry lewis was funny
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A bit dull
abbass-1418114 January 2017
Being a fan of romantic drama films, I really did not enjoy this one. Monotonic dialogues, static and unvaried scenes, no expressed emotional flux, no background audio and, most importantly, with all the supposed emotional connection between Camille and Sullivan, I did not feel the connection or the harmony at all between both in any scene, even in the most supposedly-intimate scenes, neither did I feel any involvement throughout the film. On the contrary, I felt angry at some scenes. At some point dialogues were more of reading than acting. Part of the plot was good but poorly acted. I wouldn't recommend it for those looking for a good romantic drama film.
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Au revoir, mon amour
YohjiArmstrong9 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
GOODBYE FIRST LOVE hits on a subject which everyone (hopefully) knows about; the gaining and loss of one's first love. It starts with a 15 year old girl, who naively falls in love with a boy in her class. When he leaves for Latin America she is bereft. The film then carries on through her life, into a workplace relationship, before her first love returns, posing the question of which man she will choose. As in so many French films this is done in an especially naturalistic, organic fashion without the obvious beat-sheet structure of so many American films. That said, it's also fairly dull and in common with many coming of age stories, it's more useful to those living through them than to those past them. Sweet but shallow.
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