Not a Love Story (2016) – By Philip Smolen


Pretty first-grader Zoé (Oceane Bucaille) is always prepared for school. She always has her homework done and organizes her desk perfectly. Zoé loves to learn and is ready for anything – except for her classmate Alexandre (Sasha Susini). It seem that Alexandre has a developed a crush on Zoé and he’s determined to tell the entire class about his love for her! Mortified by the youth’s attention, Zoé tries her best to ignore his proclamations. But this only causes Alexandre to declare his feelings for her all the louder. So every day brings a new embarrassment and the poor girl is at a loss for what to do about it. But Zoé’s even more horrified when she asks her parents where babies come from and they tell her that babies come after a boy tells a girl that he loves her!

“Not a Love Story” is a delightful 15 minute short film from director Rock Chang and writer Fabienne Maurer. It’s a sweet and innocent look at first time crushes and how truly awkward those can be. Alexandre only knows that he loves Zoé and he clearly doesn’t understand how much embarrassment he is causing her. To him, his love can only be an absolute good. Zoé, however, is horrified by Alexandre’s constant attention and only understands the negative connotation of the youth’s infatuation with her.

Even though this is a light and frothy comedy, director Chang successfully infuses the film with a darker undercurrent. It’s hard not to watch the antics of Alexandre and not think about how unwanted attention in adulthood can be a frightening experience and can sometimes lead to obsession and stalking.

Chang has a gift for working with children and he coaxes wonderful naturalistic performances from his cast. Oceane Bucaille is pitch perfect as Zoé and she captures the girl’s befuddlement at her situation wonderfully. Sasha Susini is a ball of energy as Alexandre. His performance really helps you understand the youth’s stubbornness and determination.

“Not a Love Story” is about unrequited love and its potential unwanted consequences. Its central theme is universally appealing and the script, direction and acting are all first-rate. This is a charming movie short that should appeal to both adults and children alike. Look for it at a film festival near you this spring and summer.

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