Made with the bittersweet clarity of hindsight and the assurance of a director in peak form, Après Mai is Olivier Assayas’ wise and wistful memory piece on the revolutionary fervour that suffused his young adulthood. Conjuring the mood and attitudes of 1970s counter-culture with pinpoint detail and nary a shred of naive romanticism, this tender but dispassionate semi-autobiographical drama offers a gentle rebuke to the celebratory spirit of many post-68 movies.
A moody, dark-haired teen with a talent for drawing and painting, Gilles (Clément Metayer) has been profoundly shaped by the tumult of May 1968. Gilles and his friends mobilize themselves, covering their school with graffiti slogans by night. But when a guard is injured during a Molotov-cocktail assault gone awry, several of them seek to avoid suspicion by heading abroad for the summer. Gilles takes up with Christine (Lola Créton, last seen in Mia Hansen-Løve’s Goodbye, First Love), who shares his film-making aspirations but has very different ideas about how to fulfil them.
Après Mai quietly demystifies its subject. The tone of the piece is wryly affectionate but never indulgent; the experiences depicted feel emotionally true and lived-in without ever catching the viewer up in a rush of intoxication or excitement.
Justin Chang, Variety
With the support of the French Embassy in Ireland