Because this movie follows a group of French teens who, a few years after Paris’s violent 1968, carry on the glamorous fight, you expect the title to foretell something dreamy: how naive we once were, etc. But writer-director Olivier Assayas (mining his own wild years) goes in the opposite direction—he might mean Something in the Air literally, with all the pot smoke and well-chosen rock music swirling around. It’s a film suffused with the sound of sneaker soles slapping on pavement, and a thick sense of heady, physical proximity. Assayas evokes the atmosphere so vividly, you begin to breathe in his tale, rather than watch it.
That’s probably a good thing, because the plot is lax, certainly not as wham-bam riveting as was his terrorist epic Carlos (2010). There’s a sweet, fatigues-clad boy, Gilles (Clément Métayer, the director’s stand-in), torn by radical politics and a promising bourgeois future after high school; an alluring hippie chick who breaks his heart (Carole Combes); and a new potential soul mate, Christine (Lola Créton), a documentary filmmaker who quickly outpaces Gilles’s zeal. Over a generous-feeling running time, the three of them fall in and out of sync, pretending to be okay about it, yet barely succeeding. Even if you don’t respond to binge-reading Situationist texts or making bad art in cigarette-strewn studios, there’s a universal story here—a social network of friends and a cause that yields to end-of-summer realities.
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