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QFA Review: Café de Flore

Are there such things as soul mates? What happens to you when the person you once thought you’d spend your life with is suddenly captivated by someone else? How do you go on? These are just some of the questions posed by director Jean-Marc Vallée (C.R.A.Z.Y., The Young Victoria) in his dazzling and thought-provoking film Café De Flore.

There’s an intricate underlying structure at work here, as a pair of seemingly unrelated stories slowly begin to intertwine. The first, set in present day Montreal, follows Antoine (Kevin Parent). Antoine has it all: a woman he loves, two daughters, and a successful career as a DJ. The second takes place in Paris in 1969. It focuses on a devoted single mother named Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) and her mentally handicapped son Laurent (Marin Gerrier).

Vallée cuts between the two stories frequently and suddenly, and sometimes flashes backwards and forwards within them. It’s a disorienting experience at first as we try to figure out exactly how all the pieces might fit together, but over time a clearer picture begins to take shape.

Both narratives in Café De Flore start out happily enough, but neither Jacqueline nor Antoine lead charmed lives. Feelings of betrayal and resentment begin to affect them in different ways. In Jacqueline’s case, she directs these emotions at a new playmate of Laurent’s, who suddenly occupies all his attention. The two become inseparable, and Jacqueline feels replaced and forgotten. In Antoine’s story, he himself becomes the object of hatred due to his romantic entanglements.

Both stories are thematically linked, and even as their resolutions diverge, the link between them becomes more and more evident. Café De Flore is a redemptive experience with an unusual twist.

About QFA reviews: This is my third review for the Quinte Film Alternative. They’re an organization that shows independent/niche movies at the Empire Theatre here in Belleville, Ontario. If you’re in the area (or just passing through) it’s a great place for movie-lovers. But even if you aren’t around here, I’d encourage you to check out these films and support the independent theatre(s) in your area. Café de Flore is scheduled to play at the Empire on May 9th at 2 pm and 7:30 (it is also available on DVD). This review originally appeared here.

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