Summer of 85
Francois Ozon continues to flesh out his already full-bodied filmography as the new decade begins, this time producing another movie of sexual exploration, heartache and the grief that follows an inconceivable loss. Originally set for release in July 2020, Summer of 85 was shelved like many others, losing its premier at Cannes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but now the wait is over and we can indulge in cinematic sunshine once again.
A 2020 French-Belgian drama, Summer of 85, stars Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin as Alex and David, two adolescent boys basking in the joy of summer independently until, after a sailing accident, their paths collide. David (Voisin) is more confident than innocent academic Alex (Lefebvre), with an endearing personality and dominating presence that reels his blonde companion in under his spell. First becoming friends and then something more, the two boys live momentarily in their own perfect bubble, as they while away the summer days in each other’s company. But as Ozon makes us aware from the beginning, this joy is momentary and is soon to become a story of pain and suffering. The question we wait to have answered is “How?”.
Following the course of two timelines with primary focus on the Alex’s recollections, the film presents a rich tapestry of nostalgia in the warm glow of 80s summertime. Carefree days float past like a dream as we observe Alex and David’s relationship, and the viewer is effortlessly swept away on their adventures before crashing back to reality. Through this, the film starts incredibly strongly, presenting some complex characters whilst maintaining a sense of mystery around their true intentions. The dialogue is youthful and flirtatious, delivered wondrously by Lefebvre and Voisin, whose on-screen chemistry sizzles immediately in two very different but equally powerful performances.
Unsurprisingly, the cinematography is stunning and a complement to the storyline at every twist and turn, whether on a bike, boat or stony beach. The soundtrack is blessed with a number of classic 80s hits to transport the viewer back 30 years.
The main question that Ozon has to field is “How is Summer of 85 not just another sad romantic story, like many we have seen before?”. Stripped to its bare bones, it is, but the plot takes a number of unexpected twists and turns, making the narrative differ from a number of similar movies that follow a familiar structure. But it is in this change of direction that a fault lies: unpredictability can be an excellent attribute, but here it causes the tale to venture away from what could be a more rounded and fulfilling emotional voyage. There are also scenes that almost identically replicate those of a certain 2017 Oscar-nominated film from Luca Guadagnino – something that will certainly irritate some fans of the picture and genre.
When all is said and done, the viewer smiles on a few occasions and laughs rarely during Summer of 85, as Ozon injects heavy doses of sincerity into this pastel-coloured, 100-minute movie of passion and vulnerability. The film may not ultimately be what we envisioned in either totality or narrative structure, but nonetheless it is a lovely artistic depiction of joy, love and adolescence, blended with darker undertones executed by the main cast. The final act of the film is a presentation of hope – a suggestion that, although the darkness of the past may deepen pain at the present, tomorrow might bring something that can heal.
Summer of 85 is released nationwide on 23rd October 2020.
Watch the trailer for Summer of 85 here: