Café de Flore is a beautifully shot film with a unique story about true love, and all the happiness, sadness and confusion that comes along with it. Now, you may be thinking, “A unique story on true love? Hasn’t it all been done before by this point, just in a different manner?” and that’s a fair assumption; however, Café de Flore is just so human, so real, and so well put together that saying it’s a unique take on such a well documented subject is something I’m confident in doing.
There are two stories that take place in the film: one follows Antoine (Kevin Parent), a 40-year-old man, who has his whole life in order, two young girls, and a lover who adores him; the other is that of Laurent (Marin Gerrier), a young seven year old boy with down syndrome, who has a mother (Vanessa Paradis) who loves him more than life itself. The first story takes place in Montreal, 2011, while the second story takes place in Paris, 1969. While the two stories may be 42 years apart, they are intertwined as they are being told, though never in a confusing fashion that will leave the viewer wondering which year they’re in.
That being said, while the artistic shots, and brilliant direction and editing help make Café de Flore as captivating as it is, it’s not a film for everyone. Some may get lost in the narrative, or not enjoy the style in which it’s shot; however, I would push for you to find out the hard way, and learn by actually watching the film. It’s such a well-crafted piece of work that it at least deserves a shot, and those who are skeptical may be surprised at just how well the universal language of love shines through and touches on emotions that we’ve all felt in our lives at one point or another.
Of course, it must be stated that the film isn’t a mushy piece of visual poetry dedicated to love. It’s a real human look at what it takes to love someone, and all the hardships that can come with it. It has dark moments and it has light moments, and all the moments between; and most importantly, it feels real. The characters are relatable through their emotions and certain experiences, and it evokes a connection with the viewer that doesn’t often happen in the more popular, mainstream romance films.
This is largely due to the fantastic direction of Jean-Marc Vallee, who also wrote the film. His artistic take on the subject is almost impossible to put in to words, as his visuals are beautiful, and his shots are perfect. It’s easy to see that an incredible amount of work went into the pre-production of this film, making sure everything was shot exactly as it needed to be in order to convey the feeling that Vallee wanted to get across.
The acting is also top notch, with wonderful performances given by all involved. Parent is superb in his movie debut as a man who seemingly has everything, yet is conflicted from within. He has such a great look, and natural ability in front of the camera that helps makes his story one that audiences will want to see unfold. The supporting cast in his story is equally strong, with Hélène Florent and Evelyne Brochu playing the leading ladies in his life. Florent has some incredibly emotional, sometimes eerie scenes to act out alone and she brings them alive hauntingly well. Brochu’s work is also beautifully done, creating a trio of perfect performances that help make Antoine’s story as powerful as it is.
Laurent’s story is amazing in itself, especially with the performances the two lead actors: Gerrier and Paradis. The two come off looking as though they are mother and son, and Gerrier’s work is incredibly impressive for a boy of his age. While his hardships in life instantly make Laurent a sympathetic character, Gerrier’s performance really brings the character – and his emotions – to life. Paradis does fantastic work here too, really pushing the relationship between Jacqueline and her son to the forefront and giving it levels of emotion that could only be found due to such a strong performance.
Café de Flore is a powerful, provocative and resonating film that deserves to be seen. If more than one film per country were eligible for a Best Foreign Film nomination at the Oscars, then Canada may have had two in the category, as Café de Flore is worthy of such praise, and is definitely a film not to be missed.
The video and audio of the film are both superb. The visuals are an important part of the storytelling, and there are no flaws to be found in the transfer of this film on that front. The sound is also incredibly important, as a lot of the film has to do with music, as well as vocals. Neither overwhelms the other, and both help give the movie the exact feel Vallee was going for.
There are no special features to be found on this release, and while that’s somewhat disappointing (as it would be interesting to hear the thoughts of Vallee and the actors as far as the making of the film went) it’s not something that should sway you against picking this film up.
Café de Flore is a simply beautiful movie, with many emotional and relatable levels that help make it a film that everyone can enjoy in one way or another. It’s not currently available in the States, but you can order it from Canada (at Amazon.ca). This is definitely worth tracking down if you want to see it. Highest recommendation.
Alliance Vivafilm Present Café de Flore. Directed by: Jean-Marc Vallee. Written by: Jean-Marc Vallee. Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu, Marin Gerrier. Running time: 120 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: February 21, 2012. Available at Amazon.ca.