A Paris Education (3 stars)

A Paris Education

Sombre and engaging but somewhat pretentious portrait of student life from Jean-Paul Civeyrac

Jean-Paul Civeyrac's A Paris Education (Mes Provinciales) may be set in the present but it feels steeped in nostalgia for the French New Wave. Shot in black and white, it follows the early days of an aspiring auteur as he leaves Lyon to attend film school in Paris. It is a film that François Truffaut might have made. The passionate discussions of aesthetics and artistic integrity and the intense seesawing between certainty and insecurity paint a convincing portrait of student life. Everyone is struggling to figure out who they are and what they might achieve.

Étienne (Andranic Manet) is uncertain where his talent might lie. He heads to Paris with all the trepidation of an explorer on a voyage into space. He promises his parents he will keep in touch, assures his girlfriend that he will never forget her. His tentative appetite for change comes with an impossible hope that everything will stay the same.

A meandering, melancholy work, A Paris Education requires you to surrender to a world where serious-minded students quote Pascal and Novalis, sing Erik Satie lyrics, trace the connections between Chekhov and Naruse, or utter world-weary lines like, 'There are days when human misery makes it hard to breathe.' Nobody here is unduly troubled by social media popularity contests, or the latest antics on Love Island.

It is undeniably pretentious, but also engaging as we watch the forces that shape Étienne and his future. Relationships blossom and falter. Scripts are written, films are made, setbacks are absorbed. Étienne is smitten by activist Annabelle (Sophie Verbeeck) and beguiled by Mathias (Corentin Fila), a charismatic charmer who seems to have everything figured out. The end result is a sombre, absorbing portrait of young lives filled with a sense of endless possibility.

Limited release from Fri 14 Feb.

A Paris Education

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • France
  • 2h 17min
  • Directed by: Jean-Paul Civeyrac
  • Cast: Andranic Manet, Diane Rouxel, Jenna Thiam

Étienne (Manet) is a young film student in Paris who spends his time discussing aesthetics and artistic integrity with his fellow students. Meandering, melancholy and pretentious, it’s also a portrait of young lives filled with a sense of endless possibility.