Soulmates? Here in Miami, a city not exactly known for its monogamous ways, we have our doubts. The idea that two people can be made for each other — complementing each others' souls, completing each others' beings, and so on — sounds to most South Floridians like some sugary, naive, romantic bullshit. In this town, people are more likely to "mate" with a different "soul" every weekend than to subscribe to such a dubious concept.
But writer/director Jean-Marc Vallée's Café de Flore, opening Friday at Coral Gables Art Cinema, might just restore faith in love and destiny for even the most cynical Miamian — at least for a couple of hours. And it accomplishes that feat with an ambiance so sexy, so haunting, and so achingly beautiful that even viewers who aren't convinced of real-life soulmates will want to linger in the film's fictional world where they do exist.
A French-language film set in Montreal, Café de Flore introduces us to Antoine Godin (Kevin Parent), a studly and successful blue-eyed DJ whose well-muscled body implies that he might moonlight as a CrossFit trainer. His life seems neat and whole: He has a beautiful, doe-eyed, blond wife (Evelyne Brochu), two healthy young daughters, and a home with a fireplace and a pool. But the portrait is marred when into this idyll are spliced scenes featuring a short-haired, sad-eyed, middle-aged brunet.
We soon find out why. Until two years ago, Antoine was married to Carole (Hélène Florent), his high school sweetheart. They met as brooding, doped-up, music-obsessed teens who both wore heavy eyeliner, and they dove headfirst into marriage. It was forever, they thought, until the golden-haired Rose entered Antoine's view at a party and he became consumed with her. Despite the resistance of his parents, his children, and his agonized first wife, Antoine moves in with his second and final "other," though his conscience protests loudly when his children tell him that Carole has been taking frequent, prolonged, and frightening walks in her sleep.
Meanwhile, the film opens the lid on another family drama, this time a family of two who live in a small apartment in Paris in the late 1960s. Jacqueline (Vanessa Paradis) is a cute, gap-toothed, beyond-adoring single mother to Lucent (Marin Gerrier), a son with Down syndrome. When she learns that her son is saddled with a life expectancy of 25, she devotes her life to improving his, breastfeeding him until he's 4 in an attempt to supercharge his immunity and enrolling him in classes from boxing to speech therapy.
The families' connection to one another is decipherable only through Carole's tortured dreams and comes packaged in an emotional revelation about, yes, soulmates. With its handsome European-Canadian cast, its playful and artistic camera work, its steamy sex scenes, and a dynamic soundtrack featuring Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, and the Cure, Café de Flore's piercing, slowly unraveling tale of transcendental love and a heartbreak that would take lifetimes to heal is capable of cracking the cynical outer shell of even the most jaded South Beach playboy.
Coral Gables Art Cinema will host a live Q&A with Café de Flore star Kevin Parent via video link before its 7 p.m. screening Friday.