Fans of French cinema, coming-of-age stories, and kindhearted romantic comedies are sure to find plenty to enjoy.
Love at First Fight
At what point are filmmakers finally going to stop making these “directionless boy falls in love with peculiar girl” movies?
Hopefully they never do, because that blueprint has resulted in some of the most charming, enjoyable films of all time. That same blueprint is put to work once again in French filmmaker Thomas Cailley’s romantic comedy Love at First Fight (aka Les Combattants), and once again, it works incredibly well.
Love at First Fight tells the story of Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs), an average teenager growing up in suburban France. He spends his days building huts as part of his family’s business, and his nights partying with his best friends. After a series of events leads to Arnaud developing a pseudo friendship with Madeleine (Adèle Haenel), a doomsday-prepping conspiracy theorist, he finds an unusual sense of purpose in life. When Madeleine signs up for a two-week boot camp, Arnaud follows suit, and the two find out just what it takes to survive the apocalypse—as well as the perils of young love.
With a hypnotic, electronic score by Philippe Deshaies, Lionel Flairs, Benoit Rault, Love at First Fight has an extremely upbeat and hopeful tone, which perfectly complements the comedic nature of the screenplay. While there are a few jokes in the dialogue, most of the film’s humor comes from the physicality of the actors. The comedic timing of the performers is great all-around.
Like many European films, specifically ones from France, Love at First Fight captures the feeling of romance and sexual exploration with great authenticity. Due to some excellent casting, and superb performances from Azaïs and Haenel, the characters feel real and honest. The teenagers in Love at First Fight look and act like the kids next door instead of Hollister models that seem to make up the casts of many American teen comedies. As a result, it’s much easier to get invested in the film’s emotional-filled story. Because while the film doesn’t deal with very many hard-hitting subjects, it often relies on the sentimentality of its viewers in order to succeed.
If this were an American film, there would likely be countless social commentary-filled overtones about the United States military and the controversial recruiting techniques of the various branches. Apparently such activity is a non-issue in France, because Cailley addresses military officials—specifically recruiters—with respect and even a bit of dignity. From an American standpoint, it’s quite interesting to see how differently other cultures approach a system that is, in many ways, much like our own. Culturally (and to some extent, technically) there are many aspects of Love at First Fight that are inherently French, but its overlying theme is universal. There’s just something about stories of young love—particularly those with lovable characters—that seems to speak to everyone in every language, and Cailey and co-writer Claude Le Pape really drive that point home in the most European way possible. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what your interests are, love will find a way because love is universal. It’s an unapologetically sweet message in a film that manages to find comedy and joy in some unusual, and occasionally dark, places.
High on entertainment value, and seeping with heart, Love at First Fight provides everything viewers will be looking for out of this kind of film. Honest performances from two exceptional young actors, sharp storytelling ability from a very capable director, and a heartwarming screenplay all come together, resulting in a completely satisfying, utterly charming package. Fans of French cinema, coming-of-age stories, and kindhearted romantic comedies are sure to find plenty to enjoy with Love at First Fight.