Olivier Assaya’s latest effort is a meandering, if at times uninspired, coming-of-age tale during France’s youth rebellion of the early 1970’s.
Frenc Director Olivier Assaya (Carlos) takes a look at a couple of youths becoming politically, socially and individually aware during the early ‘70’s, with the events of May 1968 still lingering. Focusing mainly on Gilles (Clement Metayer), an aspiring painter and filmmaker, Assayas creates a fly-on-the-wall view of a group of kids crossing the line into adulthood.
It begins with their political consciousness taking hold as they hold underground meetings, print underground papers and actually cause vandalism to further their cause. The latter causes one friend to be caught, a security guard to go to the hospital and the rest to leave for Italy to lay low. It’s in Italy that these friends begin to really figure out where their lives are headed. While the story focuses mostly on Gilles, the story also checks in on those of his friends, as they each begin to forge their own paths, either by design or the external forces of just growing up. For Gilles, he feels that the latter is taking hold of him as his girlfriend Christine (Lola Creton) decides to head off with some radical filmmakers, yet even as GIlles wants to become a filmmaker he says that he doesn’t respect their films, only their message. Whether or not that’s the truth, is something Gilles himself will toss over and over in his mind.
The political overtones of the beginning begin to give way as the characters become more immersed in their lives, leaving less time for their political causes as afterthought distractions. Some will choose to make the cause their main focus while others, like Gilles, agree with the message but lose focus on it as other aspects take hold. For Gilles, it’s moving through two significant relationships as his artistic side takes hold and he finds himself becoming more serious as an artist and filmmaker. But when his father, who works in television, offers to hire GIlles and teach him the fundamentals of filmmaking, he fights back. Again, Gilles argues that’s not how he wants to do it and this seems to be Assaya’s theme of the film — the clashing of ideals and reality. The question becomes, if Gilles just wants to learn how to make films, why refuse any opportunity?
Those around him also begin to question the paths they’ve chosen to take, either because of changing ideals or because their paths are suddenly interrupted by real life complications like that of a lover leaving. Assaya does a superb job, especially in a similar global climate, of illustrating the frustration of individual desire and freedom against larger cultural pressures. In the end, though, it’s just about a bunch of kids being released into the wild and finding themselves, whether through mistakes or through triumphs, and hopefully learning from the experiences.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5