Jean-Marc Vallee, whose “Dallas Buyers Club” bagged three Oscars last year, released a film in 2011 called “Cafe de Flore.” The two works are radically different in style and content but it feels like they share a common thread. In both films, Vallee treats love as a precious, mysterious and ultimately unknowable thing, having the power to push people onto a higher level of existence or to send them spiraling into a hellhole of disappointment and delusion. Now “Cafe de Flore” finally reaches our shores.
The film is an astounding experience, particularly due to the way it treats and compiles varied notions of love — much like an album that plays the same song with different instruments. That’s exactly what happens in the soundtrack, as versions of the song “Cafe de Flore” help to define and propel the stories about a single mother in 1960s Paris (Vanessa Paradis) who is fiercely devoted to her son with Down syndrome, and successful DJ Antoine (Kevin Parent), in present-day Montreal, who is guilt-ridden about the wife he left. “Cafe” sways between these two timelines, gradually revealing how the fates of the characters are, in fact, intertwined. This is a film that lingers in the mind for a long time.