Desplechin’s “Golden” offers a sore spot of remnants, and angst for a love affair long lost.
Writer/director Arnaud Desplechin‘s digressive coming of age tale MY GOLDEN DAYS (Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse) (2015) where the film’s central character, Paul Dédalus, endured several complexities with the women in his life. At a very young age, Paul is in contention with his mother at the top of the stairs; he fends her off keeping the “crazy woman” from advancing towards him and his siblings with a wooden knife. From the viewer’s perspective, there is the impression that the mother’s (Cécile Garcia-Fogel) is only in playful banter with her son at the top of the stairs. However, we learn of his mother’s mental illness in bits and pieces revealed later in this neglected aspect of the already familiar narrative. Paul leaves his family home to live with his great-aunt, with whom he holds his fondest memories of his youth.
The episodic memories about Paul’s life and experiences triggers when Paul (Mathieu Amalric) is at an airport to leave Tajikistan and return to France, is stopped and questioned by authorities suspicious about the possibility of him being a spy. The questioning of his past actions triggers a series of flashbacks, rather, three narratives unfold that depict the occurrences of his childhood, and the adolescent revealings during Paul’s high school years, where he and a friend smuggled a mysterious package, and his passport, to Russian Jews while on a trip to a museum in Minsk.
It isn’t until the film progresses into Paul’s (Quentin Dolmaire) most compelling of his circumstances, divulge towards healthy teenage curiosities with sex, drugs, and drinking. All of Paul’s previously somber recollections pale in comparison to the tale of his tempestuous love affair with Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), his insecure first-love. The turbulent rendezvous plays out over the weekends when Paul is visiting his family. Other times, he is away studying anthropology in Paris. He is remiss of the emotionally fragile Esther, who eventually finds solace in the arms of one of Paul’s friends, Kovalki (Pierre Andrau).
The film has a lot of dialogue, and at times, can be hugely physical. In one scene, Paul endures a beating from one of Esther’s jealous lovers and punched by a Russian officer in another. Among the brutal “lesson learned,” aspects of the film, however, did not shy away from the romantic side of the storyline. The visuals weave a series of intermitted and carefully choreographed love scenes, allowed for a natural sense of trepidation in these unarticulated moments as if to justify how much Paul and Esther meant to one another.
Desplechin’s Golden Days (2015) is a coming of age drama filled with an endearing collective of melodramatic breakdowns, and features memorable performances from Dolmaire and Roy-Lecollinet, as a pair of enigmatic lovers who manage to navigate a circle of falsity and infidelity.
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