Movie Review: Two army trainees (very) slowly fall for each other in Love At First Fight

In its native France, Love At First Fight was released as The Fighters. The U.S. title is cutesy, but not inaccurate. The movie does turn the romance trope of a couple resisting their immediate attraction via bickering into an actual physical altercation: Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) meets Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) in a brief grapple during a self-defense demonstration organized by the French army. As the film opens, recruiters are everywhere, trying to catch young people from small French towns in between commitments. Though it’s not immediately clear whether Arnaud and his friends have just finished high school or college, director/co-writer Thomas Cailley establishes a mood of post-grad ennui; actual storm clouds gather in several early scenes. One of Arnaud’s friends makes it explicit: “France is dead. There’s no future here.”

The unsmiling and standoffish Madeleine goes even further; she predicts that the end of the world …

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