LES COMBATTANTS (LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT)
Running Length: 98 minutes
Cast: Kévin Azaïs, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Laurent
Directed by: Thomas Cailley
Written by: Thomas Cailley, Claude le Pape
Cinematography: David Cailley
Distributed by: Artificial Eye
A sweet, left-of-centre love story hiding a sombre core.
Thomas Cailley’s directorial debut from 2014 receives a somewhat limited release following a strong presence at last year’s Cannes, and a very successful night at this year’s César awards.
Les Combattants is a sweet, left-of-centre love story hiding a sombre core. After his father’s death, College boy Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) returns to the dead-end resort town (think Bettystown in September and you’re on the right track) to help his brother out with the family carpentry business. While building a pool house for some well off folks, he meets Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) swimming with a bag full of bricks strapped to her back. Madeleine has dropped out of her MA in Macroeconomics to prepare for the inevitable fall of civilization. Arnaud is infatuated with Madeline’s Bear Grylls weirdness and follows her off to army boot camp.
It’s here that the movie suffers a dip in quality, and the subtle humour broadens somewhat. Cailley opts for an electro soundtrack that’s jarringly out of place. Nevertheless, Les Combattants combines light comedic touches with a pessimistic subtext on the bleak future facing the next generation. The two young leads are marvellous, but Haenel is the stand-out. Madeleine’s fuming intensity masks a fragile vulnerability, and Haenel conveys more with a look than in pages of character development.