Café De Flore

**1/2

Reviewed by: Val Kermode

Cafe De Flore
"The film is beautiful, often mesmerising and the soundtrack is superb."

For the director of The Young Victoria, this marks a return to his own, less conventional style. Here are two parallel stories, set in different times and places, each dealing with issues of love, responsibility and letting go.

Antoine (Kevin Parent), in present day Montreal, appears to be a man who has it all. A successful D.J. whose work takes him to cities around the world, he is divorced and living happily with his new lover, Rose (Evelyne Brochu) and his two daughters. Jacqueline lives a less enviable life in Paris, 1969. She has a son with Down's Syndrome. Abandoned by her husband, she is determined to give her son all the love and opportunities she can.

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Moving between the two stories, and backwards and forwards in time within each story, the film is at times deliberately obscure. Carole (Hélène Florent), Antoine's ex-wife, cannot accept her loss and wanders trance-like hoping for him to return to her. Through her dreams and with the help of a psychic she comes to an understanding which seems to link the two sets of characters in an unusual way.

The film raises moral questions and plays on our emotions. The Paris strand is more straightforward and absorbing, thanks largely to a strong performance by Vanessa Paradis as Jacqueline and the amazingly natural Marin Gerrier who plays the child, Laurent. The bond between mother and son is utterly believable. The self-justifying Antoine is harder to accept. How you feel about the Montreal relationships will depend on your view of “soul mates”. Is there really such an ideal? Can one soul mate be replaced by another? Or is this just the cynical reasoning of a man who knows the pain he is inflicting on his wife and children?

The eventual resolution may leave you feeling less than satisfied, despite the confident, glossy direction. The film is beautiful, often mesmerising and the soundtrack is superb. Valée says the title song, referring to the famous Paris café, was his inspiration for writing the film. Both Antoine and Laurent are obsessed with the song. Laurent repeatedly asks his mother for “Café …”, the song, not the drink, and Antoine's love of music is the most likeable thing about him. In his 2005 film C.R.A.Z.Y. Valée used Patsy Cline's song to great effect, and here the soundtrack plays an equally vital role.

It has become fashionable to keep the audience in their seats during the final credits with a reveal, often in the form of a grainy photograph. Since Haneke's Hidden, we are all searching for those extra clues. If this film leaves you feeling slightly confused about some of the characters you may (or may not) find this helpful.

Reviewed on: 11 May 2012
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Café De Flore packshot
Lonely people whose love binds them in painful situations are united by music.
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Director: Jean-Marc Vallée

Writer: Jean-Marc Vallée

Starring: Vanessa Paradis, Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent

Year: 2011

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada

Festivals:

Glasgow 2012

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