I didn’t see Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy until I was well into college, so when I originally saw A Little Romance I didn’t see just how similar the films were. I was maybe around twelve or thirteen when I was introduced to this film. There is definitely a fantasy element, that preteen, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful-if-this-happened-to-me kind of thing. But, there is also a realism, a maturity, a sensitivity to the way the film treats its young protagonists.
If you’re not familiar, A Little Romance follows Lauren (Diane Lane), an young American girl living with her mother (Sally Kellerman) and stepfather (Richard Hill) in France. She meets young Daniel (Thelonious Bernard) on the film set of her mother’s current paramour and they establish an instant connection. When Lauren finds out her stepfather is going to be transferred back to the states, she decides to go on one last jaunt with Daniel to Venice with the help of an old, charming pickpocket, Julius (Laurence Olivier). As always with my reviews, drama ensues!
Here are just a few reasons you should put A Little Romance on your watchlist:
Diane Lane made her feature film debut with this film. She was just fourteen years old. It’s amazing to see her as a young actress. Even then, she had a maturity and intelligence that made you want to listen to what she was saying. Her co-star, Laurence Olivier envisioned Lane as the next Grace Kelly.
Thelonious Bernard also made his debut with this film, but unlike Lane, he only went on to make one more film after. He retired from acting and became a dentist in France. It’s always fascinating to see a child actor who only gave one or two performances. Bernard certainly had something in this film. He was goofy and sweet and charming. You could see why Lauren falls for him.
Laurence Olivier was at the tail end of his career and during the making of this film, was recovering from pneumonia and thrombosis, but he insisted on doing his own stunts. It’s especially fun to see him as a bumbling, kind, criminal.
The film was adapted from Claude Klotz’s novel, E=MC2 Mon Amour. Allan Burns, who adapted the novel, spent most of his writing career as a television writer, working on acclaimed shows like The Munsters and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
At the time this film was released, many criticized the film’s dialogue for being too sophisticated and cute, the underlying meaning being, thirteen year-olds don’t say this stuff. It doesn’t bother me. I think that their intelligence is the main reason they’re drawn to one another. Their friends don’t understand life on the same level as them.
Also, I think there’s a little bit of a 400 Blows-type feel to this film, especially Daniel’s home life. Before Sunrise was made nearly two decades after this film but it owes it a great debt. Like Sunrise, A Little Romance is almost entirely based around Lauren and Daniel’s relationship and their conversations.
It’s also similar in that both films end realistically. Daniel and Lauren’s love affair is pure. I believe they only kiss twice. Their connection is based on more than physical attraction and the film is instead commenting on what it’s like to fall in love at that age, while not demeaning it.
Director George Roy Hill is most famous for his films Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting, both of which get a little cameo in A Little Romance. Daniel is obsessed with American film and regularly goes to the see movies, parroting what he hears.
The biggest thing I can say of the direction in this film is that there’s a sweetness to it. The film doesn’t claim to be treading new territory, but it tells its story in a quiet, charming way that delivers laughs and tears.
Georges Delerue is most famous for scoring Platoon, Silkwood and The Conformist. However, the only Oscar he won was for his original score of A Little Romance. It’s very seventies, but also very classical and sweet just like the film itself.
It’s a sweet and pure tale of first love.
Is it a perfect film? No. But, it certainly deserves to be remembered if for no other reason than to see a young Diane Lane. The film takes its young protagonists and their problems seriously and because of that, it can’t help but tug on your heartstrings…unless you’re heartless or something. I can’t help you there!
Vintage trailer below:
Photos and Gifs property of Orion Pictures.