Première Année (Review)

Funny, inspiring, heartwarming, Première Année achieves this roller coaster of emotions along with proving an acurate insight into the current educational problems within the context of an unlikely friendship in the first year of a French medical school.

Benjamin (William Lebghil) is fresh out of high-school and ready to tackle his first year of medical school in Paris, also known as PACES. However, he is yet to find out the extent of difficulty that resides in this infernal first year. On the other hand, Antoine (Vincent Lacoste) has already been the recipient of this unmerciful year having already redouble twice before. Indeed, there are only a mere 300 places for over 2,000 students to specialise in medicine in their second year causing over 80% of them to have to redouble each year with no promise of making it the second-time round.

This proves to be even more difficult due to their distinct differences. Whereas Antoine was born in a “regular” family, is hard-working and possesses a clear passion for medicine, Benjamin comes from a medical family, appears lethargic and is clearly not passionate about the field of medicine. The latter is in an ideal position to succeed at school which causes Antoine to develop a profound jealousy of him. The two young men must join forces to overcome this seemingly impossible ordeal.

Première Année is Thomas Lilti’s fourth long-feature film and his third with a medical theme following on from Hippocrate (2014) and Médecin de Campagne (2016). Therefore, he is knowledgeable within the subject matter. Through these two characters the director provides an insight into the flaws and the inefficiency of the medical school system in France, in particular the exams at the end of first year. They are clearly geared towards people who can retain vast amounts of information however, these people are not always the best equipped to become doctors. Ironically, just as this film came out in September 2018, the French Government began discussing stripping the infernal first-year exam along with the restricted accession to second year.

Lilti’s main focus for his fourth film was to portray an accurate depiction of today’s younger generation, doing so through the means of medical school students within a highly competitive context ruled by ambition and hard work. He creates a strong case in favour of independence and one’s choice to follow one’s dreams and not follow life paths that feel imposed on them.

William Lebghil provides a much more serious acting performance than his debut in the French sitcom Soda and the French comedy remake of Aladdin entitled Les Nouvelles Aventures d’Aladdin. He has managed to follow on from this performance by starring in a Cannes-nominated film called Yves. Although much more advanced than William Lebghil’s, Vincent Lacoste’s career appears to be on the rise. As a matter of fact, it has been confirmed that he will star in Wes Anderson’s upcoming film The French Dispatch. The wondrous synergy between both actors is what makes this film so special. It will be interesting to see where their careers go from here, hopefully with films of similar quality to Première Année.

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