Pauline at the Beach ★★★½

At the surface Pauline à la plage tells the story of two cousins and their difficult love life during a summer vacation in Normandy. Ultimately Rohmer rather follows these two young women in little episodes with a charming ease I generally appreciate in movies. As if you could pick up on any day and leave the characters equally spontaneous (Kore-eda Hirokazu is also a master at this).

Amanda Langlet is the breakout star of this little movie, getting the audience to immediately fall for her Pauline even if all the male characters prefer to swoon over Arielle Dombasle's ditsy Marion instead.

I don't really see what Marion finds attractive about Henri who comes off as an asshole and henceforth confirms this assessment throughout the rest of the movie. Pierre is more gullible but ultimately also more innocent. Sure, neither relationship was destined to work out - a fact that seems to escape all of the characters except the scheming Henri - but Pierre's attachment with Marion and her weird attempts to pass him onto her teenage cousin are a bit puzzling at times.

Pauline seems to see the world more clearly than the grown-ups around her, proving the introductory 'proverb' «qui trop parole il se mesfait» ("Whoever talks too much does himself a disservice") to be true. Despite this not even she is immune to the love plotting that's initiated by Henri only to encompass all of the characters, her young romance with Sylvain (who seems kind of like a Henri in the making himself) falling victim to this.

In the end the story leaves the female leads similar to where it picked them up - but hopefully a little bit wiser (albeit less happy).