Cafe De Flore
- Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
- Genre: Drama
- Cert: 15A
- Details: Canada/France / 120mins .
When presented with two stories that are seemingly worlds apart the brain goes into overtime wondering how the filmmaker is going to merge them. When stories unite seamlessly they can work wonderfully; when they don't, like in Jean-Marc Vallée's Café De Flore, it can ruin what could have been a great film. Luckily for Vallée he's got a pretty strong ninety minutes or so before the misguided twist.
1960's Paris, and destitute Jacqueline (Paradis) gives birth to a boy with Down's Syndrome; unable to deal with it, her husband leaves her to bring up the boy, Laurent (Martin Gerrier) on her own. When she learns that the average life expectancy of Down's sufferers is only twenty-five years, Jacqueline endeavours to extend that by breastfeeding the boy until four years and then feeding him only healthy food. When Laurent goes to school and meets a girl with Down's Syndrome from an affluent family, Jacqueline struggles with the idea that her son might not need her anymore. Fast forward to Montreal today where superstar DJ and father of two, Antoine (Parent), has separated from his sleepwalking wife Carole (Florent), a childhood sweetheart, and has made off with hot-to-trot struggling alcoholic Rose (Brochu), much to his traditional father's chagrin. Carole too doesn't take the separation well but she isn't going to give up the ghost easily, however...
This is an odd one. With its flashforwards, sharp cuts and haphazard editing styles, this drama plays out almost like a remix of an unseen original version. It's like a memory or a dream: non-linear plot, disparate scenes, flashes of a thought and bits and pieces that shouldn't click together but do. When talking to his psychiatrist about Pink Floyd's Breathe, Antoine says, "Can't make sense of it but it puts you in a happy place," which can be said about Café De Flore as a whole. The two stories have, for the most part, nothing to do with each and its distracting trying to find ways to tie them together, but the sincere love the characters have for each is powerful at times.
There's an ugly side to love, however, and Café De Flore's theme of obsessive/possessive love explores it. Jacqueline's love for her son is so strong it's humbling, and Carole's love for her husband, the only man she's ever loved, is so devout it's almost unreal. Then there's the flipside: Rose is on the wagon but being with Antoine 24/7 is her new addiction; when Laurent tells Jacqueline 'I love her like I love you' its heart-wrenching. Love can turn things can turn nasty very quickly.
As Café De Flore nears its twist, Antoine's story begins to overshadow Jacqueline's: it grows and branches out into its characters who have their own thing going on. In danger of losing its audience in confusing subplots, Vallée pulls everything into focus with a binding twist that's ill-advised and puzzling in what it is trying to say.
Review by Gavin Burke | 17:39 | Thursday 3rd May 2012 | Movie Review
Following on from C.R.A.Z.Y. and Young Victoria, Jean-Marc Vallee's most recent film is the impressive Cafe De Flore. The title comes from a song that the characters obsess over. Set over two different time periods, the film asks audiences to ponder the nature of fate and whether soulmates are possible. One storyline follows a single mother in 1960s Paris, as she struggles to raise her Down Syndrome-affected son. The other is set in present-day Montreal, as a married DJ leaves his wife for a new lover causing tension in the family. How these two story threads are connected requires a leap of faith from the audience, but if you're willing to go along with it then Cafe De Flore is a rewarding film. Utilising an excellent soundtrack that jumps from loud moments to quiet ones, it's a well-made film that packs an emotional punch. It's a film that washes over you and stays with you long after the end credits. Cynics might scoff at the central idea of the film, but there's no denying it's an interesting one. Recommended.Posted 23:43 | Fri 11th May 2012
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