In a world of multiple soulmates
So my youngest daughter came home yesterday night in tears and told me that she and her boyfriend had broken up after two years. It was a mutual decision she assured me, as we hugged before she disappeared into her room to mourn in solitude. “We’re good friends”, she said. “Too good, actually. That’s why we needed to break up.”
I stayed up alone for a couple of hours, letting the news sink in, trying to adjust to the new reality. If you’ve ever been in this situation, you know what I mean. One minute you’ve got an extra family member and your daughter is welcomed and embraced by another family. All those people are a part of your life. The next minute they’re gone.
Looking for a voice of reason to provide some support and comfort at this late hour, I googled my situation and found out that I was far from the only one getting emotional. The world is full of sad mothers processing the breakups of their daughters and a lot of them seemed to have a much harder time to let go than I had. I knew that the grief was a temporary thing and that my daughter knew what she was doing. Very few people meet the one they want to spend the rest of their life with at 17.
And this brings me over to the topic for this post, the Canadian movie Café de Flore, which I watched last week without knowing that it would become very relevant so soon. We had planned to watch it together, the daughter and I, but our schedules didn’t match and I ended up seeing it alone before we had to return it to the rental store.
Café de Flore is a movie about love: about falling in love, about seeing people we love fall in love with someone else and allowing them to do so, not turning bitter over it. Its message is that you sometimes need to let your love because if you don’t, it will devour you.
There are two stories that lead us to this conclusion. The first one, taking place in the present-day Canada, is about Antoine and Carole, who used to be married and have kids together. The reason for their divorce is that Antoine has met and fallen in love with another woman, becoming happier than he ever has been before. Carole on the other hand is miserable and can’t let go. The second story takes place in Paris in the 60s, where a mother takes care of her son who has Down’s Syndrome. Their symbiotic relationship is put under threat when the boy falls in love with a girl at school.
The film switches back and forward between the parallel stories, somehow reminding me a bit of The Double Life of Veronique, though this one is easier to follow and engage with. Like with Kieslowski, the score is essential and carries the narration just as much as the spoken words.
Café de Flore challenges the persisting idea about romantic love, that there is one and only one “true love” for each one of us and that breaking up from it means a betrayal. Or as Antoine puts it:
If it’s a soulmate, it’s not supposed to end, right? It doesn’t happen twice in a lifetime.”
And the answer to this – conveyed in a gentle way, rather than hammered in – is that love is not a restricted resource. You may have more than one soulmate during the course of life. People change, life changes, it happens and you need to go with it.
Is this what my daughter needs to hear in her current condition (a blobbing mess says the rumour)? Should I recommend her to watch the movie to get comfort and perspective on the decision to move on? Or is there a risk that it will trigger more tears of sorrow over parting from her soulmate? I’m undecided. Maybe another watching of Mamma Mia! would work better right now as a cheerful distraction.
It’s still a good movie though, especially recommended for those with a soft spot for everything bittersweet.
Café de Flore (Jean-Marc Valée, CA 2011) My rating : 4,5/5
PS If you want to read another take on Café de Flore, the one by Ryan McNeil at The Matinée is strongly recommended.