I can’t seem to keep away from French films lately. To be fair, Café de Flore is French-Canadian, but still holds that smooth and alluring je ne sais quoi of the language that I can’t get enough of. Café de Flore came through on this level, and so many others too.
The storyline runs back-and-forth between a story from the late 60s and one from present day. In the present day, Antoine (Kevin Parent), a French-Canadian DJ struggles with a separation from his wife (Helene Florent) after meeting who he believes to be his soulmate. Meanwhile in Paris in 1969, a lower-middle-class woman (Vanessa Paradis) is left by her husband after she decides to raise her child (the superb Marin Gerrier), who has Down’s syndrome. Her son becomes her life and she becomes rather possessive, after finding it challenging to accept it when he falls in love with a girl at school who also has Down’s syndrome. Think Crash or Babel, but instead of individual’s stories colliding at the end, decades meet head-on to provide a thought provoking ending.
I would suggest seeing this film for the soundtrack alone. As soon as I got home, I searched the soundtrack and have been listening to it non-stop. In fact, I’m listening to it right now. It includes various versions of it’s namesake ‘Café de Flore’, a couple of beauties from Sigur Ros, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails and Pink Floyd to name a few. The music is beautifully chosen for each time period and mood being portrayed.
But if you’re more into storyline and acting, Café de Flore still holds it’s ground. The acting is near flawless, albeit a bit narcissistic in places. There are moments when you want to ring Antoine’s neck for being selfish, and are almost frustrated that you feel pity for him sometimes. Marin Gerrier acting is incredible, and makes you fall in love with him at first glance.
The intercut story suggests that these two stories must be related somehow, but film-maker Jean-Marc Vallée keeps us guessing until nearly the end to reveal a shocking finale that somehow finishes on a positive note. Some may argue that Vallée takes this guessing game one step too far, but I prefer films that are stimulating and slightly complex, rather than sheer entertainment.
If you’re looking for something edgy and a little left field, I strongly suggest Café de Flore. It requires brainpower but will challenge you to be weary of judging others, but rather trying to understand their situation. It’s a very raw story of separation, pain, soul-mates, courage and love.
Reviewed by: Nerice Collins