One of the names Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight prides itself on discovering is that of French filmmaker Catherine Breillat. The writer and director has become most commonly associated with helming controversial films about feminine sexuality, and her latest contribution is no exception, as it tackles one of Pornhub’s most popular search terms of 2022 from a female perspective.
A remake of the 2019 Danish film Queen of Hearts, Last Summer chronicles a middle-aged woman’s affair with her underage stepson. Anne (Léa Drucker) is a successful criminal attorney who specialises in cases of rape and child endangerment. She and her husband Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin) are adoptive parents of two young girls, whom they both adore. When Théo, Pierre’s son from a previous marriage comes to live with them, their blissful family life is thrown for a loop.
Translated into the French language, the dialogue of the script is in large parts the same as that of May el-Toukhy’s film and yet Breillat’s particular direction allows for a vastly different experience. In Last Summer, there appears to be less calculation behind the protagonists’ actions: both Anne and Théo are framed as victims in a sense, as they fall prey to their illicit attraction. Through the proximity of the camera to its actors, a feeling of closeness to their characters is provoked but the uncomfortably long takes on their faces during the sex scenes achieve the adverse effect. Music seems to have been treated as an afterthought, with a Sonic Youths song on repeat – while not disruptive to the scenes, it also doesn’t add anything to them.
Drucker’s unflinching and tender performance is the film’s centrepiece and, especially in scenes with her daughters, conquers the audience’s sympathy.
Last Summer is a perfectly solid drama, but apart from a magnificently warped ending, has nothing new to add to Queen of Heart’s story, thereby raising legitimate questions regarding its necessity.
Last Summer does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Last Summer here: