Get hyped because French New Wave is back, bitches! Well, I guess you could put up a good argument that it never really left. You could also argue that My Golden Days isn’t influenced by the master’s of French New Wave enough to really deserve the moniker, but I would contend that this feels so much like all of the things Truffaut was doing with the Adventures of Antoine Doinel that it must be inspired by the French New Wave. Sure, that means it’s not necessarily revolutionary or challenging, but it is a damn good slice of life story, a fun look at the importance of our past and most importantly, a complex look into the memories that stay with us forever.
The important thing to remember about My Golden Days is that it is truly a movie where nothing happens. Sure, it is a coming of age tale, you watch a boy grow up into an adult, but since most of the film is one giant flashback, you already know that Paul Dedalus is going to become someone who is vaguely responsible. The film begins with a cute lady helping him move back to France, so clearly he has his act together enough to move countries. The only real tension in the film lies in the romance between Paul and Esther. Paul being a nervous college freshman who comes back home to visit his sister and Esther being the hottest girl at the local high school. While Paul is mostly harmless, he parties with his friends, but also studies very hard, Esther is not entirely together. She’s a horrible student, spending more time dating men way too old for her than worrying about school. She’s also incredibly emotional and possibly the neediest character I’ve ever seen on screen, but she is far more honest than Paul and has no qualms about speaking her mind.
What I loved most about the film is actually what I thought would ruin it for me. My Golden Days is very meandering. Making your way through Paul’s memory involves starting off with an entirely unrelated story about him going on a class trip to Russia. Occasionally, while you’re watching his love with Esther blossom, then falter, then blossom again, everything stops so that you can watch him form a bond with his Anthropology professor. Sometimes you’re even shown things that he couldn’t possibly have been privy to, like a private conversation between his sister and his father. It sounds dumb when I describe it, but it really did feel as if I was just taking a stroll through his past, stopping to look at whatever seemed interesting.
I still feel so conflicted about Esther. On one hand, she is a very boring and very played out female stereotype: hyper sexual, hyper emotional, hyper needy. She relies entirely on men (mostly Paul, but occasionally some others) to make it through the day, but she’s captivating to watch on camera. Actress Lou Roy-Lecollinet does such a good job at going from heart breakingly sad to wildly care free that it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. When Esther is rebellious and animated, I’m enrapt, but I could have used a few less scenes of her crying and writing letters to Paul. Even if those are the things that stick out in the emotional labyrinth he calls memory.
My Golden Days is a fantastic film to watch while hanging around the house. Have it on while you open a bottle of wine and make dinner. Feel free to tune in and out as Paul’s memories remind you of your own. This is a leisurely film. There’s absolutely no rush in getting through it. Take your time.