There arn’t many films that create confusion, wonder, amazement and disturbance all at the same time from it’s audience but Cafe de Flore managed just that. The (mostly) French language film keeps people guessing as to what was actually going on and what was going to happen next throughout. Don’t be surprised if after watching this you feel strangely affected by the events that happen to the characters or if it leaves you guessing whether it’s technically an art house film or just artistic.
“Healing a broken heart isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes a lifetime…or two. Cafe de Flore is a love story about people separated by time and place but connected in profound and mysterious ways. Atmospheric, fantastical, tragic and hopeful, the film chronicles the parallel fates of Jacqueline, a young mother with a down syndrome son in 1960s Paris, and Antoine, a recently-divorced, successful DJ in present day Montreal. What binds the two stories together is love – euphoric, obsessive, tragic, youthful, timeless love.”
Cafe de Flore’s title is taken from the song that runs throughout the entire film in various different guises and is often alluded to and included as part of the plot. While other songs make an appearance, this one is incredibly catchy and will stick in your head for days. Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee (C.R.A.Z.Y.), Cafe de Flore stars Vanessa Paradis (the singer most famous for being married to Johnny Depp), Kevin Parent, Hélène Florent, Evelyne Brochu and Marin Gerrier.
The song links two seemly unconnected story lines which it flits between over the course of the film. The first is set in 1960’s Paris and follows Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) the single mother of Laurent (Marin Gerrier) who has Down Syndrome. Jacqueline wants to her son to live a normal life and overcome the short life expectancy and stigmas surrounding his condition. Laurent is also developing an incredibly strong bond between him and his new class mate Véronique (Alice Dubois) who also has Down Syndrome.
The other story line is set in the present day and is centred around Antoine (Kevin Parent) a successful DJ from Montreal who seemingly has everything he could ever want. Dispite a wonderful career, children, wife and house he is troubled and has struggled with addiction. He has recently separated from his devoted wife and childhood sweetheart Carole (Hélène Florent) and now lives with his girlfriend Rose (Evelyne Brochu). The split is hard on Carole and her two daughters and we see her trauma develop into disturbing sleep walking night terrors. Carole searches for a reason to explain her husband’s feelings so she can move on. This is when she touches on the idea of soul mates, one of the film’s key ideas.
Another of the film’s themes is the power of music. Vallee has chosen a song that is so catchy it could quickly become annoying over the period of the film. Instead of allowing it to take over, he cleverly alters the track for each scene. In the 1960’s it’s a jazzy cafe track with tinkling piano notes which transforms in the modern day club scene to incorporate a pulsating beat line. The different layers of sound are altered to fit the scenes mood, linking the visually different scenes and stories together. The entire film is beautifully shot and slickly edited but this almost gets taken for granted as it’s so easy to become absorbed in the emotional struggle the characters go through.
Cafe de Flore is not only an audio visual treat, the story line is so unlike any other film that you will see this year. It will certainly make you think about the strength of love even if you don’t believe in soul mates. A powerful and unforgettable film that will leave you hoping for a happy ending for every character involved.
Cafe de Flore is released in the UK on 11th May 2012