‘Love at First Fight’ Is a No Frills Romance

With the constant onslaught of apocalyptic films, there seems to be a malaise, a despair for the future. In “Love at First Fight” a young girl from a well-to-do family meets this with a fierce determination to be ready for the dystopia that draws near and she meets cute with an aimless young working-class man. This award-winning movie is an unassuming romance, that suggests hope comes from not worrying about the larger, uncontrollable outside world and looking and finding oneself.

The man, Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), is the younger of the two Labrede Brothers. The father has just died and they make a coffin for him.  His older brother Manu (Antoine Laurent) takes responsibility for the carpentry business but he’s not sure if he can count on his brother.

Madeline (Adèle Haenel) is the girl and she’s very clear on what she wants to do: She wants to attend a two-week army boot camp. Her family is indulging her. They hope it’s a phase.

When Madeline leaves for camp, Arnaud leaves his brother and his family business to join her. Together, they find things are tough but it is Madeline who finds herself at odds with everyone. She is one of three girls. She it not well-liked. She doesn’t seem to have any friends.  She also finds the instruction vague.

Arnaud finds himself being given a leadership position and more capable than some of the other participants. It is a chance for him to emerge out of the shadow of his big brother.

Eventually, she says something that makes Arnaud leave the camp and her, but she decides to follow him. Together they attempt to use their survival skills with almost disastrous results.

This is not a laugh-out-loud comedy. It is a romance between disaffected youth. Young people at the edge looking for direction and eventually finding each other and discovering that things aren’t so bad at their home after all.

Director Thomas Cailey, who co-wrote the script with Claude Le Pape doesn’t make things easy and there’s an easygoing pace to this tale, originally called “Les combattants.”  The movie won an award (for Adele Haenel) at the Cairo International Film Festival and four awards at the Cannes Film Festival. It won a Best Actress, Most Promising Actor, Best First Film, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Music Césars.

In French with English subtitles.

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