A French New Wave drama as clichéd as they come, My Golden Days is wrought with existential crises, rapid scene changes, split screens, shots of characters longingly gazing out the window or looking directly at the camera, as if to remind audiences that they are indeed watching a film. But director Arnaud Desplechin, who created the film as a prequel to his 1996 My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into an Argument, pairs these clichés with a realistic story about the life of protagonist Paul Dédalus (Quentin Dolmaire) in France. The film begins with Dedalus as a middle-aged man, then digresses into one long nostalgia-stained flashback. His story is hauntingly naive, told through shots of house parties lit in dim blues and greens, teens in '80s-print button-downs rolling joints, drinking whiskey and chain-smoking cigarettes. The existential depression grows tired by the end, but somehow, watching an innocent love story devolve into dark obsession doesn't.

Rated R.

Critic's Grade: A