A Toute Vitesse

Ladymol's Review

This is French film about three young men, Quentin, Jimmy and Samir. Quentin and Jimmy have been friends since childhood, despite their very different backgrounds. Quentin is an aspiring novelist who has just written the definitive book about disillusioned youth in France. Jimmy is a product of the streets, a fighter and the leader of a gang. Samir, an Algerian, has recently lost the love of his life, Rick. When he meets Quentin, he falls deeply in love once more, but Quentinís life is full of his writing and his girlfriend and he doesnít make time for Samir. Their lives continue to twist and twine together, some finding happiness, some not.

†Itís a very pretty film. Set in the Autumn, the colours are just exquisite. The young cast is also extremely attractive, especially Stťphane Rideau as Jimmy (Cedric in Presque Rien). I found it a little hard to follow in places and felt that I was seeing a badly edited version. Events jump so you are never really sure what you are supposed to think has happened. As with many so-called gay movies, there is explicit het sex between the young cast but the gay sex is relegated to a kiss (itís a nice kiss though).

What I found really incongruous about this movie though was watching a story of love, death, murder, drugs and sex played out by children. I know Iím getting increasingly old and crusty, but honestly, there wasnít an adult in sight in this film, yet these youngsters lived the kind of lives that only years of earning (and tax paying) can afford you. Dinner parties, gorgeous villas in the hills, cars, writing novels: I was quite jealous! It just didnít strike true somehow. These werenít young people suffering the pangs of youthful infatuations and love, exploring their emotions as weíve seen in many other French films. These were fully-fledged sophisticates, weary of life at the grand age of sixteen or so.

Iím getting a little tired of films that feel they have to portray life in such negative terms. And if youíre going to use a gay theme, then I reckon filmmakers should be brave enough to give it equal weighting with the heterosexual ones.

This is worth seeing, but rent rather than buy.

Cerisaye's Review

A coming-of-age story about 4 intersecting lives in rural France. Quentin (Pascal Cervo) is a just published first-novelist already losing touch with old friends due to life-changes. Julie (Elodie Bouchez) his girlfriend falls in love with Quentinís best friend Jimmy when Quentin goes to Paris. Jimmy (Stephane Rideau), like the character Marc in Morelís more recent film Le Clan, is stuck by circumstances- troubled family background, lack of education, poverty- increasingly frustrated. At first he resists Julie out of loyalty to his friend but he needs love. Samir (Mezziane Bardadi) is an Algerian who lost his blood-brother in an accident a couple of years before and still mourns. He now falls in love with Quentin who treats him badly, using his life as material for his next book.

The story touches on class, racism, sexuality and masculine identity. It lacks a clear narrative structure which makes it hard to care since a lot of the time youíre not sure whatís going on. Maybe if you knew more about the political, cultural and historical background itíd be easier; but filmmakers shouldnít presume. I didnít know why things happened that were important to the plot.

Itís NOT a gay movie though (like Le Clan) has strong homoerotic content. Samir is gay but Quentin only flirts with him to get him to open up about his dead lover and experience of racism and homophobia, which he then shamelessly exploits to his own gain. Quentin gets close to Samir (even sleeps in his bed) to win his confidence then drops him to go off to his brilliant career in Paris. When Samir is attacked (I think by racists rather than homophobes) Jimmy comes to his rescue but sustains an injury that has tragic consequences. Itís a sad and often incomprehensible story. Beautifully filmed in a scenic part of France and with excellent performances. Theyíre all 19, fast coming-of-age, so everything that happens is heightened and intensified by emotions and changes associated with the move to adulthood.

Living in a small provincial town limits their opportunities but when Quentin goes to Paris he pays a price for his success, distance from those closest to him. Quentin is an arrogant insensitive prick no one could like, yet Samir falls in love with him, and Jimmy worships him. I didnít really buy that.

The film doesnít focus on any particular character, though Jimmy & Samir are the most sympathetic. I wanted them to explore their relationship but it doesnít happen, though unrequited love between Quentin and Samir is an issue. Also the strong male friendship between Quentin and Jimmy which has (or it did to me) a homoerotic frisson. Quentin is as cold & unfeeling as Jimmy is passionate and alive. These people have relationships hard to define and in flux, which I guess is part of late adolescence. Poor Samir is permanently sad and mournful. Julie isnít given enough time though we see her obsession with fast cars and bikes- presumably a metaphor for growing up. The difference between her comfortable (strangely solitary) existence on the family estate and Jimmy and Samirís circumscribed lives is also there in the background.

I sat through the film because I adore Stephane Rideau and would happily watch anything heís in just to look at him. His character is the most attractive too.

If you donít like nonlinear narrative, a depressing outcome, subtitles and arenít used to the nature of French films youíll hate this one. Parts were very moving however. And Stephane IS very pretty.