Arnaud Desplechin’s coming-of-age tale, My Golden Days, follows anthropologist Paul Dédalus (played by Desplechin favourite, Mathieu Amalric) who is planning to return to his home country of France, from Tajikistan. Held by security at the airport Paul recounts past memories and events. From a covert mission in the USSR where he offers his passport and identity to a young Russian, his mother’s mental illness and his father’s depression. However, what the film centres on more so than any of these is Paul’s relationship with Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet).
Desplechin captures perfectly, the all-consuming rollercoaster that is your first love and how the journey from childhood to adulthood can impact these relationships that were once seen as infinite. We see a young Paul (played by Quentin Dolmaire) evolve from a teenager who “feels nothing” and who brushes incidents off nonchalantly, to someone with much more to lose as he forms deeper relationships with those around him and embarks on college life in Paris, shaking off his hometown of Roubaix.
In the background, the world around them is shifting. As Paul and his friends watch footage of the Berlin Wall coming down, Paul likens this to his “childhood ending.” Change is what is at the root of his anxiety, making his way into a world that is alien to him. But Paul, no matter where he goes cannot let Esther go, she remains a part of his life to the present day.
RELATED: Mary Magdalene Review
The cinematography is understated which makes the occasional vignette and soundtrack much more effective. The film is peppered signs of change and the fear of growing older which blend flawlessly into the narrative without presenting an overly obvious message.
The Roubaix-born director has created a perfect balance of tragedy and humour, similar clashes of the two are seen inA Christmas Tale (2008) and his 2004 film Kings & Queen. The character of Paul Dédalus is introduced in Desplechin’s 1996 film My Sex Life…Or How I Got into an Argument, however, this follow-up successfully stands alone for those who haven’t seen the previous film.
The bulk of My Golden Days is told in flashback. Practically uncensored and raw with a spattering of dead time which turns what could have been a hackneyed high-school love story, into something much more thought-provoking and wise beyond its years.
Roy-Lecollinet and Dolmaire give solid, charismatic performances throughout and are both a perfect example of teenage angst, love and growing up done right in film. Amalric, as expected, gives a beautifully measured performance as Paul and successfully sets the scene for looking back at the character’s entire life. Desplechin has chosen his cast wisely and has created what is sure to be a future classic.