My Golden Days, a French language drama from writer/director Arnaud Desplechin tells the fragmented whirlwind love story between Paul Dedalus (Quentin Dolmaire and Mathieu Amalric) and his manic muse Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). Told in a series of atmospheric flashbacks, Desplechin’s exploration of young love has its moments, but struggles to add any depth to a cliched story.
We meet Paul as an adult returning home to France after a long work sabbatical in Turkmenistan. Along the way he recalls his past childhood living in a house with a delusional mother and depressed father, his foray into the USSR that results in him giving up his identity for another young man, and what is really the crux of the film, his school boy romance with Esther full with all the drama and intrigue that a love affair could possibly have at that age.
The division of the film into three parts works to it’s advantage. Paul’s memories are highly compartmentalized, which makes it easier for him to recall, analyze, and obsess over them in specific ways. The fact that he is a middle-aged man still chastising himself for certain events in his life as well as his obsession with thinking about it is proof enough. And while Desplechin’s deft use of the camera and the strong performances of the actors create moments that appeal to the nostalgia in us all (it was the 1980s after all), I was left oddly unaffected by the film’s end. There was nothing particularly special about Desplechin’s meditations of youth, love, or life despite possible autobiographical elements. Esther comes off as most girls do in male recollections, as a selfish melodramatic Venus that despite having very few redeeming qualities is utterly intoxicating. Paul is a cookie-cutter image of a frustrated man unable to communicate who lets the trials of his own life push away his desire for a beautiful woman. And, like a bad penny, it all keeps coming back.
Desplechin’s skill as a filmmaker is undeniable, though his tricks of the trade add up to more than this particular story can give.
My Golden Days opens today at the Ritz Bourse.
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.