François Ozon‘s new film ‘Summer of 85‘, an adaptation of the novel by Aidan Chambers, is a coming of age story that’s often predictable when exploring the romantic feelings of a boy suddenly crushing on his new friend, before tragedy strikes and capsizing altogether.
The 80s aesthetic is incredibly endearing and well established, without ever overpowering to the extent of feeling like it’s past due. Without the charming performances of both Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin, respectively playing teenage boys Alexis and David, this story would be a generic YA romantic drama. But luckily, Ozon sort of finds a way to make it his own and stray away from the inevitable comparison to Call Me By Your Name. Nonetheless, the story is at its strongest in the first two thirds of the film where we see Alexis getting saved by David after he capsizes his boat on a hot summer day, and their instant connection growing into much more than just a friendship for David. Unrequited love, growing pains and depression through tragedy turn the third act into a snoozefest the story could go without.
Why is it that every queer story, be it obviously gay or with the unfortunate on the nose queerbaiting, always ends in tears or death? Often gay love stories just aren’t allowed to have a happy ending. This doesn’t mean Summer of 85 had to be the game changer, but it sets up to be something rather sweet until it all turns to shit. There’s an unevenness in Ozon’s non-linear screenplay only Lefebvre makes worthy to sit through. At this point the film is entering its final 30 minutes, but these seem to go on forever. It doesn’t help that a British au pair with an awful French accent is supposed to be taken seriously, but turns into the comedic relief the story doesn’t need.
Call Me By Your Grave-puns aside, Summer of 85 is disappointing and drawn out beyond the point of holding the viewer’s attention. Somewhat adorable, it’s mostly a misfire that feels too safe and by the book for its own good.
AF French Film Festival Review – ‘Summer of 85’ (Été 85)
Reviewed online (screener provided by Rialto Distribution – also screening at Alliance Française French Film Festival 2021), March 14, 2021. Rating: MA15+. Running time: 100 min.
PRODUCTION: (AU) A Rialto Distribution release of a Mandarin Productions, FOZ, Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée production. Producers: Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer.
CREW: Director/screenplay: François Ozon (based on the novel by Aidan Chambers). Cinematography: Hichame Alaouie. Editing: Laure Gardette. Music: Jean-Benoît Dunckel.
CAST: Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Melvil Poupaud, Isabelle Nanty, Bruno Lochet.