‘My Golden Days’ A Heartbreaking Evocation Of First Love

 

My Golden Days centers a nostalgic and restless man who’s constantly in flux. Paul Dédalus (Mathieu Almaric) is an anthropologist who, while getting ready to leave Tajikistan for Paris, is spending his final moments with a lover. Now middle-aged, Paul is blissfully aware that parting is just a necessary component to life, and that “sweet sorrow” is one of youth’s necessary casualties. For one to move forward, one also has to leave things and people behind, as forever is probably some misguided fairy tale.

Mathieu Amalric in MY GOLDEN DAYS, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Mathieu Amalric in MY GOLDEN DAYS, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

When Paul is stopped during his travels over a passport issue, he reflects upon giving up his own passport years ago to a young Russian. Thus, Paul Dédalus was a moniker inhabited by two people in what would end up being opposite sides of the world.

Director Arnaud Desplechin uses this construct to introduce us to Paul’s youthful escapades, with the charismatic Quentin Dolmaire giving a deeply felt performance as the wandering youth.

Paul’s life is affected by tragedy due to his mother’s suicide, and he carries that pain (even if he doesn’t outwardly show his suffering) by often shielding himself from the rest of his family and burying his nose into academia.

But no man is an island, and upon meeting Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet), a young woman who winds up being his great love, Paul gradually breaks out of his shell.

Both Dolmaire and Roy-Lecollinet possess a palpable chemistry with one another, and this magnetic pull, coupled with the inevitable pain of immaturity and bad decisions, kept me transfixed for much of the film’s 120 minutes.

Since I haven’t seen Desplechin’s original film on Dédalus (My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument), my knowledge of the character is simply through watching My Golden Days. The film spends most of its time delving into Paul’s relationship with Esther, and watching their courtship and struggles makes for arresting viewing.

Unfortunately, the film’s payoff, especially in relation to Paul’s character confronting a past betrayal, didn’t tie everything together in a pretty little bow (but such is life, correct?). And in fairness, maybe some of my questions will be answered with My Sex Life, thereby erasing my minor complaints.

My Golden Days is an even handed look at the beauty and poetry of youth, a fleeting period which oftentimes is brutally vanquished by time and weather. By the end of My Golden Days, we wonder if Paul will ever recapture his past or, more importantly, if he’s content with the present. These are the questions that possibly drift through our own lives, and thankfully My Golden Days is an evocative reminder that love, whether near or far, is here to stay.

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My Golden Days opens in New York and Los Angeles (exclusively at The Landmark Theatre in West Los Angeles) Friday, March 18.

I briefly talked about My Golden Days on CinemAddicts, a movie podcast I do with Anderson Cowan (the discussion begins at 40:35).

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