Cafe de Flore: Love in Quebec, Pathos in Paris

If you don’t have the patience for Cloud Atlas‘ six plots in three hours, how about two in two? This mushy, mystical French-Canadian melodrama tries to make parallel a pair of love stories: one between preteens with Down syndrome in 1969 Paris, the second between a Québécois DJ and his new amour some 40 years later. How are the two tales related? Don’t reach for your calculator or attempt to pencil a family tree. Writer/director Jean-Marc Vallée (The Young Victoria, C.R.A.Z.Y.) is less concerned with logic than spiritual affinity—and possibly reincarnation, too. (Regular wafts of Pink Floyd and Sigur Rós contribute to the ethereal muddle.) “Do you believe in soulmates?” asks the DJ (Kevin Parent) after he falls for a tattooed beauty (Evelyne Brochu) at his AA meeting. His marriage is already on the skids, explained by flashbacks extending to the ’80s, when he met his future wife (Hélène Florent), who believes in past lives. This portion of Café de Flore—the title comes from a song heard in both halves—is like a story constructed from the perfume ads in Vanity Fair: the emotional problems of shallow, sexy jet-setters. Better are the Parisian travails of a single mother (Vanessa Paradis) whose disabled 7-year-old son becomes attached to a girl in his special-ed class. Paradis is both ferocious and exhausted as a hairdresser overwhelmed by her maternal duties. She hasn’t got the time or money to indulge her kid’s puppy love; her frazzled desperation seems real, unlike the DJ’s self-indulgent dilemma.