It's the end of summer vacation for Amin. The young photographer spends cozy evenings with Charlotte, the ex-girlfriend of his Casanova cousin. She talks to him about literature, he ... See full summary »
Amin, an aspiring screenwriter and photographer, returns to his hometown, a fishing village in the south of France, after living a year in Paris. He spends his time hopping from beach to beach and from bar to bar, finding his childhood friends and chasing new encounters. The summer lights of the Mediterranean coast guide his quest for love, as he hopes to live a passionate romance like in the movies. Surrounded by his loving family, who sometimes helps and often hinders, Amin searches to find his own way. Inspiration comes in the form of many female characters who enchant him, but when it comes to love only the mektoub ("destiny" in Arabic) can decide. This coming-of-age saga set in 1994 casts a nostalgic glow on losing the innocence of youth.
Amin quits his Paris medical school and returns to his seaside home town, intent on pursuing his twin interests of photography and writing sci-fi scrips. He quickly discovers that his womanising brother Tony (Salim Kechiouche, more famous to British audiences for such gay-friendly fare as 'Grande École' and 'Le Clan') is having an affair with his pultridudinous childhood friend Ophélie. Amin and Tony visit the beach, where they meet two tourists, Charlotte and Céline. Charlotte quickly falls for Tony's swarthy charms, and Céline initially seems interested in Amin - before showing equal interest in his humorous friend Joe and, indeed, in Ophélie.
On paper, this soapy storyline looks as if it could be dealt with relatively quickly. Director/co-writer Abdellatif Kechiche, however, spins it out to a squirm-inducing 181 minutes. He does this mainly by lengthening scenes way beyond their ability to hold the viewer's attention: for example, a nightclub sequence which adds nothing to the development of either plot or character lasts, by my reckoning, at least quarter of an hour but could have finished in half that time; and to establish that Ophélie works on a goat farm all that was needed was for her to say "I've got to get to the goat farm"; instead we're treated to five minutes of her herding the creatures into a barn.
Kechiche frequently has his actors talking over one another, which may be an accurate mirror of real-life conversation, but makes it difficult for the viewer to keep track of who is saying what, particularly when reading sub-titles. He also often places his actors in front of the sun, casting them into shadow and searing the eyeballs of his audience.
This film is sub-titled 'Canto Uno', which suggests one or more sequels. Even though the characters are largely likeable, and there is comfort in the predictability of the story, unless those sequels benefit from much tighter editing than did this, I won't be going anywhere near them.
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