My Golden Days is the story of Paul Dedalus, an anthropologist, played by Mathieu Amalric as an adult and Quentin Dolmaire as an adolescent, who returns to France after spending a lot of time travelling overseas. As he tries to board a train, and return home, he is detained for questioning by Intelligence Services, because someone with the same name and birthdate had been discovered dead in Australia. As Paul is being questioned, he begins to relate his childhood, and we flashback to him as a youthful young man, living with his crazy mother, his trip to the Soviet Union, and especially, his love affair with Esther.
My Golden Days is set up into several segments with titles, such as, “Opening”, “Esther”, and “Epilogue”. Within the first twenty minutes, since Paul is mistaken for a Communist, one might assume the film would turn into a spy-thriller, but it doesn’t. Instead, it is a coming of age film, set in France, and Paul’s character is a common one found in French cinema: a young man who spends too much time thinking.
There are some nice directing touches by director and co-writer, Arnaud Desplechin, in this film. One sequence, in particular, stood out when the film segways between Paul walking and Esther talking about missing him. Another nicely done film sequence was when Paul sees visions of his own mother while visiting Paris. Both of these sequences add to the overall feel of the film quite well.
Aside from Mathieu Amalric, I’m not familiar with most of the cast. This is largely due to Amalric having starred in many English Language productions, such as the Grand Budapest Hotel and Quantum of Solace, in addition to his numerous French productions. Of note, Amalric played this character, Paul Dedalus, twenty years earlier (1996) in Desplechin’s My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into An Argument. Amalric and Desplechin have worked together off and on since The Sentinel (1992)
The film’s musical score has a really atmospheric and mysterious feel to it, and in parts, it actually reminded me of the classic Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo soundtrack, with a dark piano piece playing in the background of a few scenes. The soundtrack also uses a lot of popular English language hip-hop and rap-songs in order to emphasize what was popular with teenagers in the 80’s, and 90’s.
The things that didn’t like about My College Days, is that it has a bit of air of apparent pretentious, particularly when Paul is talking to Esther, with dialogue like “A Chinese game, I can teach you”, and “I don’t crack off, I really don’t”, coming off as especially annoying and the sorta love triangle introduced near the end of the film, between Peter, Esther, and Jeanne Dedalus, a man she starts dating, while Paul is away. Also the film has a character named Robert, who rebels and runs away from his parents when they come to visit him, and he ends up staying with his cousins. This is not only poorly handled, but it serves no purpose within the context of the story, and is utterly meaningless. It could have been cut out entirely from the film, and it wouldn’t have made a difference.
My Golden Days is a well intentioned, well made film about a man relating his younger years. Some of the film could have been trimmed down, and loose ends tied up, but as it is, it’s a film that has a lot of interesting things to it and is at least worth checking out.