My Golden Days (4 stars)

My Golden Days

Arnaud Desplechin's nostalgic charmer receives a belated release

British audiences have endured a long wait for My Golden Days (Trois Souvenirs De Ma Jeunesse), Arnaud Desplechin's playful, picaresque charmer which premiered at Cannes in 2015. A further exploration of incidents from the life of Desplechin's cinematic alter ego Paul Dédalus, it is suffused with nostalgia for the illusions and indiscretions of a long ago youth.

A carefully structured prequel to 1996's My Sex Life…or How I Got Into an Argument, it begins as anthropologist Dédalus (Mathieu Amalric) returns to France from Tajikistan. He is taken into custody, recounting the story of his life to the wry amusement of government official Claverie (André Dussollier).

That is the excuse to depict the three memories of his youth: an unhappy childhood in Roubaix at the mercy of his formidable, mentally unstable mother; a life-changing school trip to Soviet-era Minsk; and, later, his increasingly intense feelings for the woman who will become the love of his life, Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). The young Paul is played by Quentin Dolmaire, who captures enough of Amalric's mannerisms and speech patterns to create a seamless union between the character in the past and the present.

My Golden Days is very much a tale of how everyone is the sum of their experiences. The thrilling memory of an overwhelming passion, the sting of betrayal, the joy of being young and alive in a world full of possibilities have all left their mark on a Paul who is now older, wiser and more rueful than we have seen him before. Desplechin allows the search for lost times to unfold with a light touch, a vivid sense of Paris in the 1980s and 1990s, and a cast who bring freshness and vitality to the most familiar ingredients of a first great love. It has been well worth the wait.

Selected release from Fri 16 Mar.

My Golden Days

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • 2h 3min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin
  • Cast: Quentin Dolmaire, Lou Roy-Lecollinet, Mathieu Amalric
  • UK release: 16 March 2018

Paul (Amalric), an anthropologist, returns to France from Tajikistan and has to recount the story of his early life to an amused government official (Dussollier). Desplechin unfolds the search for the past with a light touch, and a fine cast brings vitality to this playful, picaresque charmer.