Love at First Fight is a French dramedy that tells of the relationship between twenty-somethings Madeleine (Adèle Haenel; Aliyah, Three Worlds) and Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), two young people searching for themselves. The English title promises are far cutesier romcom than the French title Les Combattents (The Combatents), which is far closer to the truth of the matter.
The film begins with Arnaud and his brother, Manu (Antoine Laurent) having a contentious meeting with a sales rep trying to to pass off a subpar coffin to them. They storm out and it establishes their line of work, they are contractors and are taking over their late father’s business. Manu is more dedicated than Arnaud, which is part of his internalized and externalized conflicts.
Enter Madeleine who is a wannabe survivalist and army recruit, who is in a transitory life-moment herself setting off down this path after earning a few master’s degrees. With this the film introduces its strongest performance and to an extent its largest problem.
There is no wit in platitudinal cynicism. To find truth in nihilistic existentialism one needs to find a uniqueness in the characters worth exploring, exploiting, and extrapolating this idiosyncrasy into universality, and this film doesn’t really accomplish that task.
And to do so it’s best to not have a character put themselves through a situation obviously predestined for failure, and not only failure but one in the most frustrating way possible. Truly this section does allow the original title top ring true, but as previously stated it does get tiresome.
While it is compelling that the seemingly more lost-in-life Arnaud is more comfortable in their self-imposed survival situation, the winding down of the film is overly-languid under-compelling relegating this film to ultimate mediocrity.
Azaïs’ performance is sufficiently endearing, Haenel is a true talent and I have yet to even view her most well-known works, but ultimately they are the only thing that makes this film a tolerable pastime. There are films to be seen and to be made about the 21st century malaise not exclusive to Milennials alone, but this is not among them.
There are a few gorgeous images, some laughs and the standout leads but the drama is never compelling enough and the sweetheart element is never touching enough. A film about a survivalist ought to be able to keep its head above water better than this.