Café de Flore is the latest feature film from multi award winning Canadian film director Jean-Marc Vallée, who is best known for the coming of age drama C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005).
In many ways, Café de Flore is like the 'adult' version of 'teenage' C.R.A.Z.Y., as both films detail themes of family, youth, love and life, which are all dealt with relatable realism under Vallée's direction.
Those familiar with Vallée's previous films, will know how important music is to his cinematic universe, so it should come as no surprise that Vallée has cast two internationally successful musicians in the lead roles of his latest daring venture; French singer-songwriter and actress Vanessa Paradis, stars as Jacqueline and in his remarkable acting début, Québécois singer-songwriter Kevin Parent, stars as Antoine.
In the opening sequence, which takes place in modern day Montreal, we are introduced to Antoine. Through a Jean-Pierre Jeunet-esque voiceover, we learn he is forty years old, has a job he loves (he is a successful globe-trotting disc jockey), has found new love with girlfriend Rose (Évelyne Brochu) and is the father of two young daughters; he 'should' be content with his current existence according to the voiceover. This introduction is then contrasted with the of the birth of Laurent (Marin Gerrier) in Paris 1969. It is revealed Laurent has down syndrome and has a life expectancy of only 25 years. However the same voiceover proclaims Laurent has Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis), his fiercely protective mother, who will love and cherish him and make sure he can live life to the fullest.
The lives of Antoine and Laurent are then interweaved in this astonishing film. We watch Laurent grow from infant to toddler, who is very much the apple of his mother's eye, to a young boy who falls in love with Véro (Alice Dubois), his schoolmate. This almost immediate relationship tests Jacqueline, as well as Véro's parents. We also follow Antoine, as a recovering alcoholic and divorcee, who forms a relationship with Rose, while Carole (Hélène Florent), his ex-wife, and his children struggle to accept the breakdown of their once happy family.
It is not until the final act in which it is revealed just why these narratives have been transposed with one another, and yet still, the explanation is deliberately ambiguous.
Café de Flore is a haunting portrait about love and loss and the interweaving narratives lend a dreamlike quality to the film, which is emphasised by the eclectic soundtrack, featuring multiple songs by Sigur Rós and Pink Floyd.
Café de Flore is a thoroughly engaging film, highlighted with fantastic performances from Parent, Paradis, Florent and Gerrier. It is a rich multi layered film which requires multiple viewings. It must be said that it is not a film for everyone, but it is a rewarding experience if you allow yourself to embrace it.