Something In The Air (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner23/05/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 122 mins

Impressively directed and superbly acted, Olivier Assayas' Something in the Air is a nostalgic and thought-provoking coming-of-age drama with a terrific soundtrack to boot, though some may find the relative lack of plot frustrating.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas, Something in the Air (or Apres Mai, original title fans) begins in 1971 with would-be student revolutionaries Gilles (Assayas' stand-in Clement Metayer, looking like a French Ben Whishaw), Christine (Lola Creton), Alain (Felix Armand) and Jean-Pierre (Hugo Conzelmann) escaping from the police after a violent riot. Subsequently, they plan and execute a graffiti raid on their school, which leads to a further incident where a security guard is injured in a revenge attack, forcing the group to hide out in Italy for the summer.

While in Italy, aspiring painter Gilles – whose previous girlfriend Laure (Carole Combes) has just moved to London - falls in love with Christine, though she later takes up with a group of militant filmmakers and also leaves him behind. Meanwhile, Alain begins seeing American dance student Leslie (India Salvor Menuez) and travels with her and another group to Afghanistan.

The Good
Conventionally speaking, there's actually very little in the way of plot; instead we get snapshots of the characters with weeks or months passing between scenes. This is occasionally frustrating but is used to arresting effect around the midway point, when a traumatic event occurs and is then abruptly cut off and not referred to again.

Assayas gets terrific performances from his cast of young unknowns, particularly Metayer and Creton (last seen in Mia Hansen-Løve’s wonderful Goodbye First Love), while Combes makes a striking impression as Laure and there's strong support from both Armand and Menuez. In addition, Assayas' script (largely based on his own experiences) explores a number of thought-provoking ideas about the fracturing of post-1968 political movements and the emerging counter-culture; it's also interesting to note that the film doesn't judge its characters for ultimately embracing the system they were initially fighting against.

The Great
The film creates both a powerfully nostalgic atmosphere and a strong sense of time and place, heightened by some impressive set design work and a number of terrific soundtrack choices (all drawn from Assayas' own record collection), including two brilliantly used protest songs.

It's also beautifully shot, courtesy of cinematographer Eric Gautier, and Assayas orchestrates a number of memorable sequences, such as the graffiti raid on the school, a brilliantly staged sequence at a party in a country house or a simple scene involving Gilles and Christine tentatively flirting with each other while watching a screening of Bo Widerberg's Joe Hill.

Worth seeing?
Something in the Air is an evocative and thought-provoking coming-of-age drama with a strong script and superb performances from Clement Metayer and Lola Creton. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Something In The Air (15)
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Content updated: 23/07/2018 06:40

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