My Golden Days
Written and directed by Arnaud Desplechin, Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse – My Golden Days – is French filmmaking at its best: poetic, thought-provoking, organically real. That love is its central theme is classically Gallic – where human connections provide life’s meaning and l’amour is a raison d’étre. By proxy, philosophy, art and literature are essential preoccupations.
A middle-aged man’s recollections of his youth consist of three of his purest memories: a painful childhood, a thrilling adolescent escapade, and a teen to early 20s love story that haunts him his entire life. An opening scene of a contented present-day anthropologist/government minister, Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric), contrasts with vignettes of an abusive childhood. A new chapter introduces the mature protagonist – suspected of being a Russian spy – interrogated by authorities, with a flashback of his teenage self on an adventure in Minsk.
The longest of Paul’s past reveries is the most significant: his early youth, his family, friends, living rough in Paris, university studies – but, most importantly, his intense amorous relationship with the unusual, mysterious, charismatic Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), who is a bit of a loner as other girls don’t like her, but has many suitors and an independent nature. The young Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) is genuine, intelligent, resourceful, subtly charming. A gently evolving relationship – Esther initially interested but aloof, Paul slightly awkward and tentative – reveals blossoming ardour. He asserts he’s not the marrying kind, though he loves her more than life; while their constant separation wears on Esther, she becomes fragile, yearns for his presence and, to Paul’s anguish, has affairs with others.
Brilliant writing and direction by Desplechin, exceptional editing (Laurence Briaud) and a sublime musical score (Grégoire Hetzel) combine with the excellent performances by Dolmaire, Roy-Lecollinet and Amalric. Irina Lubtchansky’s exquisite cinematography artfully captures mood with intimate close-ups, split-screen frames and iris shots.
With references to Greek myths (as with the name Esther) and 18th-century art, poetic allusions intertwine with portraits of individual idiosyncrasies and relational interactions to form a fascinating mosaic. Snippets of history, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, provide a sense of time. Changing from first to third person narrative – echoing a randomness of memory – My Golden Days is beautiful in its thoughtful complexity: a richly woven texture of emotion, affection, human foibles, anxieties, contradictions and passions.
My Golden Days is released in select cinemas on 16th March 2018
Watch the trailer for My Golden Days here: