Although movie releases are still few and far between at present (thanks, corona), new films are still being released if you know where to look for them. And one of these new releases is Summer of 85 (aka Été 85) – a French-language coming-of-age drama, which opened in the UK today.
If you want to watch Summer of 85, the movie is available to view in selected cinemas, or it can be watched from the comfort of your own sofa, by renting it through the online streaming platform, Curzon Home Cinema. And you should watch it; because Summer of 85 is a superb movie.
Based on the novel, Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, Summer of 85 stars Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin as two teenagers living in a coastal town in France. One of these teens, is sixteen-year-old Alexis – a solitary soul trying to find his place in the world.
One day, while out sailing, Alexis gets into trouble out in the water but is rescued by David, an eighteen-year-old who is something Alexis is not – confident and comfortable in his own skin. David’s outgoing personality, as well as his insistence the pair become friends, leads to the teens spending the summer together, where their friendship blossoms into a relationship – albeit in secret.
But this is not a simple tale of hidden love; there is a little more going on, and as the story develops it becomes clear the two teens are not set for a happy ending. Over the course of 100 minutes, Alexis and David’s romance is played out for all its beautiful and heart-breaking moments, resulting in a poignant character-based tale.
Directed by François Ozon, and set to the backdrop of classic tunes, including songs from The Cure and Bananarama, Summer of 85 is a captivating picture about love. And like all good love stories, the movie doesn’t pull any punches, ensuring a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
Those who have watched Die Mitte der Welt (2016) or Call Me by Your Name (2017), will find shades of those tales here, but Summer of 85 isn’t a carbon copy. The movie does its own thing, and it does it well.
For the majority of the picture, Summer of 85 tells its story through two timelines – one set in the recent past, depicting the development of Alexis and David’s relationship, and one set in the present, exploring the aftermath. This results in a strong piece of storytelling which helps to keep the audience interested, as the relationship unfolds.
And I have to say, I was completely hooked from start to finish. From the moment the movie began I could feel myself being whisked away to a more carefree time and place, free from coronavirus, dodgy politicians, and all the other problems of 2020.
The setting – a beautiful sun-kissed coast in France – really helped to draw me into the story, and certainly livened up a cold and miserable October day here in the UK. But the setting was only part of what got me instantly invested – the music, the tone, and the performances were also what sold me on this film.
In terms of the performances, the leads are perfectly cast in this picture, and bring a real believability to their roles as two ‘80s teens embarking on a journey of discovery. Félix Lefebvre in particular steals the movie as the smitten Alexis, but Benjamin Voisin is also incredibly strong in the role of the slightly older, slightly more worldly David.
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Isabelle Nanty are marvellous in supporting roles, as Madame Gorman (David’s mom) and Madame Robin (Alexis’ mom); and a nod must also go to Philippine Velge who plays Kate, a sort-of friend to Alexis. All of these supporting characters add a real depth to the story and help expand the world that is being created.
With regards to the music, Summer of 85 features a beautiful score from Jean-Benoît Dunckel, which permeates the picture and captures the essence of what is an emotional summer. The score is interlaced with a selection of pop songs, including the aforementioned Bananarama and The Cure, along with an iconic tune from Rod Stewart.
During one very simple, yet incredibly effective moment, Stewart’s I Am Sailing plays out as Alexis and David grow closer. The use of the song is brief, but it manages to incapsulate all the feelings of an intoxicating summer romance, and becomes a very important inclusion in the picture.
As for the tone, Summer of 85 is a film which takes its subject matter seriously. It doesn’t shy away from being an LGBTQ+ story, and it never inserts any jokes or puns at the expense of characters; instead it simply tells a tale of love between two guys.
I appreciate that love stories aren’t for everyone, and you may feel like this has all been done before, but that doesn’t stop this from being a real treat of a movie. Audiences might still be craving big blockbusters, something we have been in short supply of this year, but great films like this one can still provide solid entertainment.
I urge everyone to give Summer of 85 a couple of hours of their time. Even if you’re not into love stories, this is still one to watch and it will give you something to divert your attention to, as well as a whole new appreciation for I Am Sailing.