Star – Love
Genre – World Cinema > Comedy
Run Time – 98 minutes
Certificate – 15
Country – France
Amazon – £7.40 DVD
Awards – 12 Wins & 15 Nominations
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So what is love? Will it’s not what we thought it would be as kids. It’s certainly two people who fancy each other so are nice to each other and want to be with each other because of that. Oh and you don’t want them to be with anyone else, perhaps the clincher. The boy must be taller than the girl and she must be feminine and look up to him for there to be a relationship. Or so we think. It can simply come about because the other person likes the things you do and so you have lots to talk about. Sadly I do think a lot of attractive people sacrifice that most sort after nirvana of true love just to be with other attractive people, so not to waste their looks, if you like. What we do know is only young sexy women would date old men if they have money but rarely the other way around. But what if you have a director who wants to play with the sparks of young love and bring his own flints to the party and reverse those stereotypes somewhat? French director Thomas Calley is that man with his interesting subtitled romantic comedy. This film is not like many other romantic comedies I have seen.
Adèle Haenel ... Madeleine Beaulieu
Kévin Azaïs ... Arnaud Labrède
Antoine Laurent ... Manu Labrède
Brigitte Roüan ... Hélène Labrède
William Lebghil ... Xavier
Thibaut Berducat ... Victor
Nicolas Wanczycki ... Lieutenant Schlieffer
Frédéric Pellegeay ... Le recruteur
Steve Tientcheu ... Adjudant Ruiz
Franc Bruneau ... Le conseiller funéraire
Maxime Mège ... Adrien
Clément Allemand ... Jordan
Barbara Ayse ... Laurie
Coumba Seck ... Aminata
Tomboy Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) grapples with Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) at the beach in a wrestling match, organized by a club for ‘wellbeing’ of French youngsters in their small costal town. Madeleine is winning but Arnauld doesn’t want to be beaten by a girl in front of his friends and bites her to get free.
Madeleine is using most of her spare time training hard ready for an army career. The recruitment team is coming to town and she wants to be ready to enlist in a specific survivalist course. The degree she took specialized in urban planning and post apocalyptic population control and so trained in and wants to join that specific aspect of the army. Arnauld, on other hand, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life now that college has finished and so decided to help the family landscape gardening business by going out working with his brother Manu (Antoine Laurent) in the truck.
His first job just so happens to be at the house of that girl that beat him at the beach, Madeleine doing lengths of her pool with weights in her rucksack, hardcore stuff. The powerful blonde is masculine yet graceful and Arnauld is fascinated by her. But she is cold with him and sees him as feeble in some way and seemingly no reciprocal chemistry or attraction going on. But when Madeleine discovers she has missed the recruitment team at the beach she asks Arnauld for a lift to the next town on his scooter where the Army are setting up for the afternoon. Here they find each other a little more bearable as she signs up for the course as the rain pours down on their return trip, the storm washing out the work he had been entrusted by his brother to finish at her house.
Madeleine is all set and on the train to the two week camp, as focused as ever and sure to top the class. But she is surprised, happy and annoyed at the same time when Arnauld turns up on the train and has also joined the camp. He wont admit it but he is drawn to the aggressive and interesting Madeleine and they are about to go to war in a forest in South West France with paintballs and compasses.
One of the great romantic movies is The Remains of the Day, a love story where there isn’t actually much traditional romance going on, the stiff upper lip restraint of loyal head butler (Anthony Hopkins) repelling the subtle and increasingly longing advances of the pretty head housekeeper (Emma Thompson) he clearly loves very beguiling to watch. I think we all screamed just kiss her man! It’s the subtle gestures, regret and rejection that is so sad in that movie. Here it’s nowhere near as much pathos on show but interesting and different on similar lines as far as romantic comedies go. You always presume tomboys are gay and lads wouldn’t date a girl he feels inferior to but here the role reversal works. Why shouldn’t extreme opposites attract if they want to have something in common to encourage love the message. When you do fall in love it’s often not over a candlelit meal or a process of dating but a simple touch of hands for the first time or just a look from someone you don’t know. You can’t force love but you can certainly pretend it.
The director has you questioning any potential romance early on by having Madeleine slightly taller, smarter and physically superior to the likeable but average Arnaud. How is the director going to get these two together the movie asks? As usual its common interest that attracts as Arnaud sets about breaking down the pretty tomboys acerbic and hostile humor the film is littered with to win her respect. I think what women want most from men is to be able to trust them and look up to them in some way, something our young man is naïve to. By the end of the film you really do go through the raw ingredients of love and emotion and how far people will go to be together.
It’s entertaining and different and that constant stream of acerbic humor as the two put each other down also fun. As kids I remember young love being exactly that and built on people putting each other down at first. The subtitles are easy enough and the film has a unique visual look and feel to it that you won’t find elsewhere in European cinema and keeps you intrigued in it. In fact the second half of the move it has a very British feel to in as the kids move to the rural locations and draw closer together in the wilderness. It’s certainly not your average movie and one to look out for is you like your romance more realistic and raw.
Imdb.com – 6.6/10.0 (3.657votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 81% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 63% critic’s approval
The Mail –‘Even when it's slowing down, Fight shows beguiling confidence in both its filmmaking and its characters-enough to make its smallest romantic moments feel significant’.
Robert Egbert –‘ Madeleine (Adele Haenel) does not know that she is a character in a rom-com. She thinks she's in a war movie. Or, better yet, a dystopian post-apocalyptic movie. Anything but a rom-com. She does not smile until an hour and 20 minutes into Love at First Fight’.
Village Voice –‘Rejuvenating the romantic comedy through its unusual premise - in which training for an elite army unit releases a flood of pheromones - Cailley's film is also buoyed by its enormously appealing leads, Kévin Azaïs and Adèle Haenel.
NYTIMES –‘’For its first two-thirds, the film, written and directed by Thomas Cailley, seems to be groundbreaking. Then it slides into comforting familiarity.
New York Post –‘ A sort of grown-up version of “Moonrise Kingdom,” France's Love at First Fight has some youthful free-range charm but not nearly as much as its predecessor’.
Times –‘It's an intriguingly off-kilter relationship drama and the two leads are persuasive.’.
Total Film –‘Crowd-pleasing without compromising on its uniqueness, the result has romcom structure but a beguiling adventure mood reminiscent of the best US indies’.