The core of Café de Flore is a simple, all too human truth, that however much you might love someone, however committed you might be, there still might be someone else who will steal your heart away.
“If you have a soulmate, it’s not supposed to end right?” recovering addict Antoine asks his therapist. “It’s not supposed to happen twice in a lifetime?” In present-day Montreal, Antoine (Kevin Parent) and his wife Carole (Hélène Florent) are in the midst of a divorce. He has fallen in love with a beautiful, wide-eyed girl he met at an AA meeting. “Don’t worry. Your father and I are soulmates”, Carole reassures their children, and she believes it – it is their destiny to be together. “I’ve never kissed another man,” she tells her friend. On a cocktail of meds, she is found by her children sleepwalking, her face locked in a silent, Munch-esque scream.
Then in 1960s Paris – shot in smudgy sepia – we find another, mirrored story of rejection. Vanessa Paradis’ Jacqueline is a single mother totally devoted to her son Laurent who has Down Syndrome, but he betrays her obsessive parenting by forming an intense, unbreakable bond with a girl he meets at school. “I love her like I love you,” Laurent says.
The two stories seem linked, conjoined, two sides of the same coin. But we’re left to guess at their relationship. Is there a physical connection between Carole and Jacqueline? Is it familial? Are these flashbacks or fragments of another life? We see naked bodies writhing underwater, shared moments so close and intimate we can feel the characters’ breath, the wailing melodies of Sigur Rós and Pink Floyd. This is an exhibitionist film; frequently overextending itself, inchoate, full of false notes. But there’s something brazenly joyous about Café de Flore. It’s not rational, it cannot answer for itself; it’s a headlong, elemental experience. For a film about falling in love and then losing it all, it’s exactly as it should be.
Café de Flore is out in selected UK cinemas now.
Text: Tom Seymour