Love at First Fight Screen 13 articles

Love at First Fight


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  • Not sure why this swept the Fortnight awards, as it's pretty innocuous—the rare French movie that seems as if it'd be right at home in Sundance's Dramatic Competition lineup. Its saving grace is that it gets weirder as it goes along, metamorphosing from labored romcom to survivalist idyll to disaster flick; both actors relax into their roles, too... and by the rousing finale you're ready to watch another, hopefully better movie centered on these two characters.

  • The film's original French title, Les Combattants, or The Fighters, lays bare Cailley's trite wager, where the film's focus on physical sparring speaks to deeper, but falsely humanistic concerns about each character's capacity for emotional endurance.

  • Its wry humor combined with its smooth language make Les Combattants an extremely easy going and likeable romantic comedy... [But] Les Combattants's subject matter is exceedingly focused on the couple's chemistry, when it could be better served if it had been purely concentrated on their personalities and instinctive reactions towards the situations they are confronted with.

  • The comedy, despite straining for effect with a cleansing forest-fire climax, owes some of its feel to American indie influences...

  • Undeniably strong, the chemistry between Azaïs and Haenel occasionally confounds: Is it animal lust that draws their characters together or a sibling-like camaraderie (and concomitant enmity)? That the impulse behind this cathectic energy is never quite clear makes this mismatched couple all the more memorable.

  • It's a bold and refreshing choice to have the lead character in a rom-com be this uningratiating, and this deadpan. The screwball dames of the 1930s may have had their quirks, and certainly gave as good as they got in any linguistic battle, but they didn't hold out as long as Madeleine does. Madeleine's out-of-place quality is what gives "Love at First Fight" (with the much better French title "Les Combattants") its tension and humor.

  • For a movie about bodily endurance and rugged adventure, Cailley’s direction is oddly detached—he lets the script suggest the tough work and hardly bothers to film it. But near the end the long, schematic setup delivers a remarkable twist: the near-couple’s theoretical training for survival gets put to a severe practical test. Here, too, Cailley leaves much of the most interesting action to the imagination, but the power of his idea overrides, albeit briefly, the thinness of its realization.

  • This debut feature by French writer-director Thomas Cailley is the rare romantic comedy that's satisfying as genre entertainment but also inspires serious thought on pertinent social issues (in this case, looming environmental catastrophe and the tenuous state of the European middle class). Kévin Azaïs and Adèle Haenel are fresh and charismatic as the young lovers.

  • Haenel is a consumate joy to watch. Her ingenue appeal is not sexualised with Cailley instead drawing out the power and vulnerability of a woman with conviction. The fact that everyone else thinks that her convictions are batshit crazy provides humour but also fuel the ever-heightening sense that as in Daydream Nation, Donnie Darko and The Craft we are heading towards an abstract, end-of-the-world spectacular.

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    Sight & Sound: Ginette Vincendeau
    June 05, 2015 | July 2015 Issue (p. 71)

    [It's] difficult, after all the acclaim, not to be disappointed by this engaging, quirky but slight film... Nevertheless, Les Combattants is not without charm. Its location on the south-west coast in a modest family avoids the clichés of either 'miserabilist' banlieue films or the usual affluent Parisian milieu of French auteur cinema. And there are the wonderful central performances. While Azaïs is excellent, Haenel confirms her promise from previous roles in Water Lilies and Suzanne.

  • Kévin Azaïs and the reliably superb Adèle Haenel make an appealingly mismatched couple as kids drawn to each other while attending a gruelling military boot camp – imagine a real-world Hunger Games with a Gallic air of indifference.

  • Love at First Fight: Don't be put off by the not-so-graceful English title of Thomas Cailley's debut picture — think of it by its much better French one, Les Combattants (or Fighters), which more fully captures the movie's bold, sweet, punch-drunk temperament... Cailley makes the most of these two wonderful young actors' faces: Together, they capture the head-rush of young love in all its prickly, misguided glory.

  • Rejuvenating the romantic comedy through its unusual premise — in which training for an elite army unit releases a flood of pheromones — Cailley's film is also buoyed by its enormously appealing leads, Kévin Azaïs and Adèle Haenel, the latter of whom is having a welcome moment of semi-ubiquity in New York movie theaters right now.

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