My Golden Days is a prequel and a sequel (mostly prequel) to the 1996 film by director Arnaud Desplechin, My Sex Life…Or How I Got into an Argument. Matthieu Amalric reprises his role as Paul Dédalus during the sequel sections with Quentin Dolmaire playing the character during the flashbacks. Paul, who has been working as an anthropologist in Tajikistan is preparing to return home to Paris and reflects on his life in three sections. The first two are fairly brief, dealing with his childhood and his mother’s unstable mental condition; he is then a teenager who makes a trip to the Soviet Union and, in a bit of espionage, gives away his passport to allow a Soviet Jew to emigrate.
The bulk of the film is the third memory from Paul’s past about a time during his college years when he returns home and meets the girl that would be the great love of his life, Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). Esther is the town beauty and seductress—in some ways perhaps out of Paul’s league. She knows that all the boys worship her, but she treats them with a haughty disdain. But Paul offers her something the others do not—he actually loves her for more than her body. Their relationship grows, but is bound to fall apart in the world of their friends and the betrayals of those who are still learning what it means to love.
The film is a coming-of-age story, but it looks at that concept through Paul’s attempts to be a good person—to his mother, to someone he doesn’t know, to a girl who he wants for his own. But just trying to be a good person does not always lead to happiness. For Paul, his attempts to do what is right sometimes have success, but they also meet failure—not always because of him. As he looks back later in life, those memories now reveal some of the successes and pains that have defined his life. We never know as we live through our lives those important moments. As Paul remembers earlier events, he now sees the ways they have formed him.
Photos courtesy of Magnolia Pictures