Unrated (strong language, sexual situations, nudity, adult themes); 120 min.
In 2011 Montreal, the DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent) is about to turn 40. He is successful, healthy, has two beautiful daughters and is in a loving relationship with Rose (Evelyne Brochu), whom he is preparing to marry.
In 1969 Paris, Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) is raising her son Laurent (Marin Gerrier), who was born with Down syndrome. She has read that the boy's life expectancy is 25, but she is determined he will live to be an old man, and she devotes her life to him.
Linking the two storylines in Cafe de Flore is the eponymous song.
In Paris, Laurent listens to a jazzy piano version. In Quebec, Antoine prefers a groovy ambient cover. Much as he did in 2005's C.R.A.Z.Y., writer-director Jean-Marc Vallée uses pop music liberally, sometimes to sublime effect, other times more subtly.
Sigur Rós plays when Antoine meets Rose, and the chorus swells at the precise moment they fall in love with each other.
Cafe de Flore is told in non-chronological order, with flashbacks within flashbacks and narratives constantly jumping back and forth across decades. But there isn't a single moment in the movie when you're lost or confused.
One of the great pleasures of the movie is seeing how the lives and histories of these characters gradually come together.
In its final 20 minutes, Cafe de Flore takes a huge, quasi-spiritual turn, reminiscent of what Vallee did in C.R.A.Z.Y. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work this time either, requiring too large of a leap of faith from the viewer.
But you can completely ignore the twist (it springs not from the director, but from the mind of one of the characters) and still walk away loving this ambitious, poignant movie.
In French with English subtitles.
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-- Rene Rodriguez, McClatchy Newspapers