Café de Flore is a film of heartfelt emotion and deep spiritual resonance, and establishes Jean-Marc Vallee as one of the best young filmmakers working today.
It is with good reason. Vallee’s first film C.R.A.Z.Y. which told the story of a young man grappling with his sexuality in 1970s Quebec was a critical darling. His next film The Young Victoria saw Valle flip the royal drama on its head, taking subtlety over gaudiness.
Café de Flore is his most ambitious film to date. It’s themes of spirituality, religion and love eternal in an increasingly secular and jaded world is wonderfully presented and touching in its tangibility, although it often ventures into brazen territory.
The film deals with two different yet interconnected stories. The first is set in modern day Montreal and focuses on a successful club DJ named Antoine (Kevin Parent, his debut) who leaves his adoring wife Carole (Helene Florent) for the disarmingly beautiful Rose (Evelyne Brochu).
The other is set in 1960s Paris, where single mother Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) struggles to maintain her fiercely protective relationship with her down syndrome suffering son Laurent (Marin Gerrier).
Both stories weave in and out of one another, and it is through Valle’s direction and excellent editing that the film does not get lost in its jigsaw structure.
The performances are also stunning. Vanessa Paradis is simply magnificent as Jacqueline, portraying a tenderness and an aggressiveness that makes her character both mother of the year and frightful concoction of love unconditional and rage never ending.
Kevin Parent is also very good as a man caught between love and devotion, as are Helene Florent and Evelyne Brochu who play the women in his life, both projecting a sexual energy while portraying deeply felt emotional conviction.
Café de Flore is an example of a director with supreme confidence in his visuals, approach to music (which is used not solely as soundtrack but as a character itself), and also with its themes. There are statements and revelations made here that would come off as hooky new age babble in another filmmakers hands, yet in Valle’s the clash of eastern and western spiritual conventions sit side by side comfortably.
To see such things pulled off in a single movie is something to be cherished. Avalle’s next film is awaited with much anticipation.