The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

In a world of multiple soulmates

with 20 comments

fleur de cafeSo 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.

Letting go
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.

Written by Jessica

May 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Posted in Café de Flore

20 Responses

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  1. I wish your daughter nothing but peace and clarity during these crummy days ahead, and I thank you for these beautiful words.

    Ryan McNeil

    May 30, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    • Thank you Ryan. For your kind words and for your beautiful words about the same movie. An awesome piece of writing.


      May 30, 2013 at 7:38 pm

  2. What an incredibly mature thing for your daughter to say. Lovely piece Jessica.

    • Thanks. That’s how she is. She was recently appointed the “40+old” of her school class, referring to her maturity. Which I guess is great but also a little bit sad, sort of.


      May 30, 2013 at 7:37 pm

  3. I’m so anxious to see this but it still hasn’t popped up anywhere around here at theaters or on DVD. Your review has me even more excited for it


    May 30, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    • That’s so odd to me. How can this movie take the jump over the Atlantic to Sweden (where it was released straight for DVD, no theatre screening), but not cross the border to US? I know they speak French, but is it really that offputting?


      May 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      • Not for me! I love French cinema but something’s up. I’ve been checking online for an US update but nothing has popped up.


        May 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm

        • And you’re not alone. I’ve heard other American cinephiles waiting for it. So let’s just hope they get the distribution sorted soon.


          May 30, 2013 at 9:51 pm

  4. Very sorry to hear of the family news. Silly to say I hope your daughter does not suffer, because suffering after a two-year relationship fails is both perfectly natural and probably, in some sense, a sign of being a good human being – cold comfort though that thought is. I do hope though she does not suffer over-much. I also hope you do not suffer too much either. I am not looking forward to the powerlessness of that situation.


    May 31, 2013 at 12:23 am

    • Powerless is the word. A bruised knee is easy to deal with, sooth and comfort. Heartaches is a different matter. There really isn’t much you can do apart from just being there in case they want to talk or hug.


      May 31, 2013 at 7:18 am

  5. Hi Jesisca. I’m writing to you today because I’m feeling particularly sad and nostalgic. Heck, I’m even listening to Lord of the Rings song “In Dreams” just to amplify the experience. If you didn’t know, Google Reader is due to close any day now.

    I’ll get to why that’s important in just a moment, but first I want to give you a bit of backstory. I’m a fan of yours whose readership predates the velvet cafe. You might say that I know you mostly as my innkeeper. Years have past since the Inn closed shop, and so many more years have past since I first happened upon that blog for the first time. And yet… the memories persevere.

    I remember coming home from school, loading up my feed reader, and looking to see what blogs posted something new. Your blog was always the first one to be read. I remember you trying to create an atmosphere that felt like having a pint with a friend, just sharing some stories. I remember you commenting on my lowly, insignificant blog back in the day (and how happy it made me). I remember the chills I got when reading Elnia’s “Near the Wild Heart” and “Merely WoW” posts…

    The reason I’m telling you this is because with Google Reader’s death my archives of your old blog will die too. Given that the old blog is no longer on the net, it means that it could very well be the last time I get to revisit the old memories and posts I’ve enjoyed so many times. The embers I’ve worked so hard to keep alight are finally burning out. This is truly one of the sadder thoughts I’ve had in awhile.

    Just know that your old blog meant a great deal to me and probably many others, and that you’ve truly touched hearts. I wish every happiness for you, and I hope life treats you well.


    May 31, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    • Hello there old friend! It’s lovely to see you here. Please have a seat and I’ll bring you a pint of our very best and something special!
      You’ve walked a long way; you must be weary. But sit here and relax for a while and you’ll be good to go before you know it.

      I’m afraid I didn’t get around to renew the fee for the domain. Perhaps I should have. I always thought the domain would go back to, but apparently it didn’t. I’ll look into what can be done, if I either can renew the domain now or if I can reactivate my old blogspot address.

      I hope something can be done about this. I’ll do my best to fix it.




      June 3, 2013 at 12:19 am

      • Been investigating a bit. My first option is to try to get my domain name back. There’s no obvious way now to get that so I’ve written them a letter.
        If this won’t work out, I will reactivate the blogspot address instead.


        June 3, 2013 at 1:03 am

  6. […] at Velvet Cafe was prompted to watch CAFÉ DE FLORE after her daughter had an eventful day. Her recounting of the events and how that slanted her take on the film is writing at its most […]

  7. Oh Jessica, this is why I always come back to your blog, you always have such sound advice through your life stories! At the moment I’m getting rather close to starting a relationship but he’s also one of my best friends, maybe I should proceed with caution? Who knows, haha. I hope you’re daughter’s okay! Plus, I’ve always wanted to see this film, but I still can’t get a hold of it 😦


    June 1, 2013 at 2:21 am

    • She’s still low, but it’s all so fresh. What’s sad is that she’s just about to graduate from senior high school, but there’s no festive atmosphere here whatsoever, for obvious reasons. I hope you can get to see it eventually, it’s definitely worth it.

      About your potential love interest, I’m really not in the position to give any advise… But yeah, I guess it’s always a good thing to proceed with caution when it’s a friend…


      June 3, 2013 at 12:56 am

  8. This has been on my to watch list for ages, hope to get around to it soon.


    June 21, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    • You really should watch it. I found it on DVD; it mighthave been released at your place as well.


      July 15, 2013 at 12:04 am

  9. […] Café de Flore A delicious movie for everyone who loves the bittersweet. Strangely it never got any cinematic release in Sweden; it went straight for DVD. […]

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