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Cafe de Flore

Café de Flore

Released 11 May 2012
Director Jean Marc Vallée

Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Helene Florent, Evelyne Brochu, Marin Gerrier, Alice Dubois
Writer(s) Jean Marc Vallee

Pierre Even, Marie-Claude Poulin
Origin Canada, France
Running Time 120 minutes
Genre Drama, romance
Rating TBC


French-Canadian director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., 2005) brings another highly emotive, sensationally acted pièce de résistance to the cinematic fold. Café de Flore is a beautiful and at times confusing, ultimately disturbing story about one man's love for two women and a mother's obsessive love for her son. A first rate drama, Vallée has poured every ounce of his considerable talent into a film that deals with parallel storylines which significantly merge to create something that is both memorable and poignant.

In 2011 internationally successful DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent) seems to have it all- money, a beautiful girlfriend Rose (Evelyne Brochu) and two healthy children. However Antoine is plagued by guilt over his failed relationship with his first wife Carole (Helen Florent), his first love and the mother of his two girls. Since their breakup Carole has been sleepwalking and is consumed by a doomed hope that her ex will return to her. In 1969 Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) is a single mother to seven-year-old Laurent (Marin Gerrier) who has Down's Syndrome. Determined to prolong the life of her son and battle those that believe he should be placed in an institution, Jacqueline builds a life for Laurent that centres around just the two of them-their own jokes, their all-consuming love for each other and and the song that gives the film its title. While the two stories may not seem to have much in common, other than love, we come to see that there is a special connection between both that is wholly transfixing.

At first glance Jean-Marc Vallée's type of filmmaking is similar to that of the feted 'Hollywood poet' Terence Malick. The beautiful cinematography, the hazy oftentimes disorientating method of telling the story are all hallmarks of both directors but where Malick fully embraces the metaphysical Vallée reins things in right at the cusp and in doing so, manages to make proceedings that bit more compelling and one could argue, more emotionally resonant. The acting is superb-Parent, a renowned singer songwriter in his native Quebec is excellent in his first lead acting role while Paradis is truly a revelation as the battle-weary mother intent on fighting for her son's right to a normal life. Emotionally jarring, viewers may find aspects of the mother-son story disquieting but it all serves a purpose and its connection to the modern-day story of Antoine, Rose and Carole is apparent in one final, careering moment. This is not a movie to be described in words, rather it is something to experience.

- Louisa McElwee