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LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT, aka ‘Les Combattants’ (review)

Review by Joshua Gravel
Produced by Pierre Guyard
Written by Thomas Cailley, Claude Le Pape
Directed by Thomas Cailley
Starring Adèle Haenel, Kévin Azaïs, Antoine Laurent,
Brigitte Roüan, William Lebghil, Thibault Berducat,
Nicolas Wanczycki, Frederic Pellegeay, Steve Tientcheu

Arnaud is a young man who doesn’t seem to know what he wants in life.

He and his brother have taken over their fathers business of building sheds and gazebos after their fathers passing but Arnaud’s preoccupation with a headstrong and brash customer Madeleine leads to poor work and troubles within the family business.

When Madeleine leaves for a training camp to join a military Special Forces group, Arnaud suddenly decides to go with her.

Unfortunately they soon find out that Madeleine doesn’t quite fit in at the training camp while Arnaud excels.

After the situation causes tempers to flair between Arnaud and Madeleine the two abandon the camp in an attempt utilize their survivalist skills on their own.

With Love At First Fight first time feature film director Thomas Cailey has crafted an interesting and engaging relationship drama with a few laughs.  

Love At First Fight is a good-looking film with some beautifully shot woodland exteriors accompanied by a good story and strong characters. The two lead actors are especially strong with Kévin Azaïs (Skirt Day) as Arnaud being likeable and somewhat believable while Adèle Haenel, who first gained critical recognition in 2007’s Water Lilies, portrays an interesting and alluring, if not somewhat aloof, character in Madeleine.

Although I enjoyed the story overall and would certainly recommend it, I must admit that a couple of aspects didn’t work for me.

I found it somewhat hard to believe that a character who showed little to no interest in a military career would enlist on a whim to follow a girl he’s only known for a week or so.  Of course, that’s the kind of thing that happens in romance films, so I suppose I just have to accept it and enjoy the quirky characters and drama that unfolds after the odd choice is made.

The other thing that stood out to me was the soundtrack. Love At First Fight has a very catchy electronic score along the lines of what you’d expect to hear in a high energy sci-fi or action film and it simply doesn’t seem to match the tone of the film or the subject matter at hand, mostly serving as a distraction to the viewer whenever it intrudes into the film’s audio track.

Love At First Fight will likely be most appealing if you are a fan of contemporary French cinema or stories about quirky romances.

Love At First Fight is now playing in limited release and will be available on DVD September 8, 2015
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