Architecture is the learned game, correct and magnificent, of forms assembled in the light.”
– Le Corbusier

When one is young, summer lasts forever. It is a restless and carefree cat-like creature, stretching and coiling lazily in the tall grass, infused with a Dionysian love of youthful abandon. Mia Hansen-Løve places her latest film directly amidst the clear sky and drone of cicadas, conjuring a hazy atmosphere of summer love found and lost in a manner that is both sexually candid and sensitively insightful.

For all its seeming idyllic perfection (the brush of warm skin against warm skin, sunlight against the backs of necks), the adolescent affair is all-consuming – and perhaps illusory in its perfection. Like the heat of summer, Sullivan feels stifled and trapped, and so flees to satisfy his own wanderlust. Camille (Lola Créton) is crippled with heartbreak, but at the tender age of fifteen, not all can be lost so soon. The change of seasons is a faithful mirror to Camille: despondent and lonely (winter) to self-discovery and mature confidence (summer), and Créton does so with a pristinely naturalistic grace.

The theme of architecture and light dance throughout the film, thematically inspiring Camille’s progression as a character, and more broadly, her relationship with Sullivan. She grasps desperately to the “glimmer” offered by her career in architecture and the prospect of a more mature love with her professor. Like all good architecture however, there must be a centrepiece around which all other structures are laid; indeed, the recurrent feelings between Camille and Sullivan are a source of safety and resistance to them both. They drift together and apart, falling into habits nurtured by the summer sun so many years ago, but in their personal growth, are gnawingly aware of their differences.

The beauty of this film is that it does not impose an ending to their relationship, but observes it from afar as it unfolds in an entirely natural and genuine fashion. The bud of their pubescent love, borne in the soil of the Gallic countryside, is never uprooted, and its deep-rooted effects follow Camille throughout her entire life. It is as much a a romance as it is a coming-of-age tale, blissfully focused on the female perspective. The ardent flame of their love may burnt out, but the remnant of the ashes need not inspire bitterness or regret – it is growing up, departing the summer of innocent illusion for the summer of self-possessed contentment.

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