Part of the reason why this pandemic and the required isolation is so hard on teenagers is how important friendships and love is to them. They make up a large part of their world. Without them, they are lost, frustrated and sad.
In French director François Ozon’s (8 Femmes, Swimming Pool) latest film it is based around that simple but universal idea. That during our teenage years all the feels we feel are intense. As such, many a film has dealt with summer loves. Loves which are intense, but only last the length of one summer. Whomever is involved falls fast and hard then suffers when it comes to its inevitable conclusion.
During the summer of 1985 Alexis (Félix Lefebvre – Une nuit, a travers champs) thinks it is going to suck. He, along with his subservient but caring mother (Isabelle Nanty – Miss, Amelie) and demanding father (Laurent Fernandez – 22 Bullets, Les Lyonnais), are living by the seaside. Bored and directionless, one afternoon he takes out a small boat on the water. Soon the idyllic time turns into one of struggle. Struggle to stay alive as the weather turns and the boat capsizes leaving him in the frigid waters. Thankfully David Gorman (Benjamin Voisin – Bonne Pomme, The Happy Prince) happens to see him, so he comes out on his boat and rescues him.
Soon Alexis is under the spell of the dynamic David. They are spending time together. David even gets Alexis a part-time job in his family’s shop. David’s mother (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi – Human Capital, Like Crazy) is thrilled as she sees Alexis as a good influence on her sometimes wild son. The friendship quickly turns into a romantic one.
Alexis is head over heels. David becomes his whole world. Though these feelings do not go two ways. David is just looking for fun, not love. He has the attention span of a preschooler. Soon his eye strays to Brit Kate (Philippine Velge – first feature film) right under Alexis’s eyes. The sensitive teen is crushed. But this is not going to be the worst part of the summer for Alexis.
Yes, there is plenty of melodrama here. Some might tsk tsk that, but in a film about teenage summer love (or really any teenage love story) heightened every emotion is going to be a big facet. Almost a required one. Everything has to be big as it is most likely going to burn out quickly.
We have all watched films involving summer romances. This one does not really have anything new here until it does. There is a twist involved which fits well. Another plus is that it does not rely on the usual tropes. Tropes of the gay love film. Especially when it comes to young people. All that occurs between the two is plausible. Authentic feeling.
Ozon obviously loves the 80s as the decade is done note perfect here. From the music by Bananarama and The Cure to the clothes being worn. You will be washed over with nostalgia if you lived through that decade.
Based on the novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, the film is a love letter to Normandy and love in our teenage years. This love burns as bright and hot as the summer sun, but soon extinguishes as the days become shorter. Love with a shelf life. Doesn’t make it any less valuable or valid. Just shorter.