Felix, a young nurse played by Éric Nantchouang, falls in love with a girl named Alma at an open-air party by the Seine and follows her, though uninvited, to the south of France in this charming yet curiously touching drama, which expertly handles the highs and lows of young love.

The couple spend the night of the party together, falling asleep on a grassy mound, before Alma must rush off in the morning to catch her train to the south. Felix is impish and cheeky, has mettle and is determined to meet her again. On impulse, he decides to follow her to parents' home - or holiday home perhaps - which happens to be in the quaint medieval village of Die, somewhat alien territory to Felix, an avowed city boy.

He also persuades his best friend, the more thoughtful and gentle Chérif, to accompany him on his quest. On a day of lashing rain in Paris, the pair link up with Édouard (Édouard Sulpice) who is looking for passengers in a car share. He thought he was getting two girls for the trip and is somewhat taken aback that his passengers will be two young lads.

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However, he thaws somewhat on the trip down in what is one of the film's many subtle delights, character development handled with economy. In fact, Édouard begins to warm to and genuinely befriend the two boys. He is driving his mother’s car, but is obliged to stay with Felix and Chérif at a campsite which is the boys' destination. Édouard had intended to drop the two lads and drive on to his mother's place. However, the car has developed damaged brakes which necessitates him waiting around for a week as parts must be ordered.

Die - which is roughly between the towns of Valence and Montélimar - huddles by the river Drome, under breathtaking mountains (yes, I Googled it). Despite its rather terminal associations for an Anglophone certainly, one would want to be there for sure - to see Die and die, as it were - although you might want to wait until the summer. Alan Guichaoua’s discreet yet imaginative cinematography shows the placidly rolling river, the walled town and surrounding mountains to alluring effect.

To say how Felix gets on with his love interest, following his daring gambit, going from one end of the country to the other in the throes of passion, would be to spoil the story. Suffice to say there is some competition locally and it gets a little nasty. Meanwhile, Chérif falls for a young mother Helena (Ana Blagojevic), who is holidaying at the campsite with her baby daughter Nina.

There is a decidedly Rohmer-esque quality to this refreshing movie, with its youthful cast and seductive paysages. In fact À L'abordage is probably an easier film to absorb, there are far less - in fact, hardly any - of the loaded philosophical conversations that are the clotted cream around the berries in almost every Rohmer movie. Comparisons are invidious, of course, and this is unfair as Rohmer films do expressly have a wider philosophical brief and perhaps leap higher. (Discuss).

The title À L'abordage combines the sense of 'All aboard’ and ‘Attack', once the rallying cry of French pirates on approaching an enemy ship. À L'abordage evokes that air of youthful risk and the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ spirit that characterises young love.  

À L'abordage is nothing less than a quiet masterpiece. Its air of youthful innocence refuses to be contaminated by the tensions and disappointments that cannot be avoided when you are twenty-something and living and learning. In other words, Guillaume Brac and Catherine Paillé have between them crafted a convincing screenplay which has its feet on the ground and knows the score. 

Paddy Kehoe

Available to rent on IFI@Home from 18.00 on Monday November 16 to 22.00 on Thursday 19