My Golden Days

 

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A passionate adolescent love story that is quintessentially French in tone.

 
My Golden Days

Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet

 

Back in 1996 Mathieu Amalric played Paul Dédalus in Arnaud Desplechin's film Ma Vie Sexuelle. He now returns to that role in Desplechin's latest offering Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse known here as My Golden Days. Indeed, this piece which stands on its own is a kind of prequel with Amalric appearing relatively briefly as Paul as he looks back on his past presented here in three distinct episodes. The first, 'Childhood', is very short as it reveals young Paul and his two siblings coming to terms with having a deranged mother and a father who, after her death, succumbs to depression. Here Paul is played by Antoine Bui but we soon move on to see him at the age of sixteen in the episode entitled 'Russia'. This finds him on a trip to Minsk taking part in some serious teenage derring-do concerned with aiding a Russian Jew to escape using a passport in Paul's name. Far, far more substantial is the third episode, 'Esther', and at the centre of the film now is Paul's relationship with this girl, a 16-year-old student to whom he feels inferior while at the same time recognising that he is bewitched by her. In these last two episodes, Paul is played by Quintin Dolmaire although just before the film's close Amalric will be seen again in an Epilogue.

 

Dolmaire, more conventionally handsome than Amalric, plays well and there is a large supporting cast including most memorably Françoise Lebrun as Paul's great aunt, André Dussollier as an interrogator and Eve Doe-Bruce as a professor who becomes a kind of mother figure for Paul, but the centre of the film is Esther. That fact makes one question Desplechin's approach to some extent. I say that because putting the focus on this relationship so crucially results in the first two episodes, well-staged though they are, having what comes to seem limited relevance (at the outset Paul by sharing his memories with us may seem to cut a Proustian figure but, as the film proceeds, that aspect recedes and even his own voice over yields to an anonymous commentator). Some characters that might have been developed fade out, part of a believable broad canvas that comes to play no more than a subsidiary role.

 

Lou Roy-Lecollinet who takes the role of Esther is able to make this avowedly self-confident girl one of the most alluring of all screen objects of desire while simultaneously revealing her as one of the most challenging (you probably have to go back to Jean Simmons as the haughty young Estella in David Lean's 1946 version of Great Expectations for anything comparable). Here, however, the relationship with all its complications is so central that how much you like My Golden Days may well depend on how closely you can identify with these two. There is also the question of how readily you go with a narrative that introduces so many potential sidelines and then largely dispenses with them. But this is in any case highly competent filmmaking and it is an advantage that the Epilogue contains two of the film's strongest scenes. In addition to which, Lou Roy-Lecollinet's Esther is unforgettable.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric, Françoise Lebrun, Olivier Rabourdin, Lily Taieb, Pierre Andrau, Eve Doe-Bruce, André Dussollier, Raphaël Cohen, Clémence Le Gall, Eric Ruf.

 

Dir Arnaud Desplechin, Pro Pascal Caucheteux, Screenplay Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr, Ph Irina Lubtchansky, Pro Des Toma Baqueni, Ed Laurence Briaud, Music Grégoire Hetzel and Mike Kourtzer, Costumes Nathalie Raoul.

 

Why Not Productions/France 2 Cinéma/Le Pacte/Wild Bunch/Canal+/Cine+-New Wave Films.
124 mins. France. 2015. Rel: 16 March 2018. Cert. 15.