After heading to the Film Festival of Cannes in 2013 with “Jeune & Jolie” and with “L’amant double” in 2017, director François Ozon returned to his loving film festival. While the festival was cancelled, Summer of 85 (“Été 85”) was still part of the line-up. The movie is now finally making its way to cinemas. While the film might not be from the high standards as Ozon’s previous work, it’s still a delightful, sunny, emotional and also dark movie that will make you forget the summer of 2020.
“Summer of 85” is based on “Dance on My Grave” by Aidan Chambers, which was a ground-breaking novel. It was one of the first books that represented a gay relationship between two young adults in a positive way. Both the novel and the movie follow the sweet and innocent looking Alexis ‘Alex’ (Félix Lefebvre) striking up a friendship with the more rebellious and mysterious David (Benjamin Voisin).
While their romantic relationship blossoms over the summer, it’s more than just a fling. It becomes a relationship with the high (the romantic moments) but also the lows (the heated fights and bizarre promises). Just as in any relationship, the differences between them become extremely more visible. Alex feels that David isn’t giving their relationship his full attention while David doesn’t see the harm in that as he wants to live a good life full of love, drugs and drinks. The love and passion are slowly making place for more arguments, jealousy and hatred with some disastrous consequences following. And no, we’re not talking about a few broken hearts.
After hearing ‘two young men falling in love during the summer’, you probably think that “Summer of 85” is just another coming-of-age story. Well, that’s not true at all. Right at the start of the movie, Alex confesses something directly to the audience that will make you cringe. How can a boy who’s certainly ‘très mignon’, can declare something so dark? How is that dark confession connected to a beautiful and light love story? Well, that’s something you will find out while watching “Summer of 85”.
There are some of Ozon’s signature elements in this movie. As usual, there are the picturesque settings, and because Ozon shot this movie on 16mm, each setting becomes even more vibrant and romantic. This heightens the effectiveness of the touching moments between Alex and David even more. Not only the physical setting but also the ‘80s vibe comes to life wonderfully thanks to the trendy denim jackets and sports jackets and the classic soundtrack that includes Laura Branign’s “Self Control”, The Cure’s “In Between Days”, and Rod Stewart’s “Sailing”.
Ozon’s traditional queer gaze still prevails in this movie and especially when it comes to Alex. Before meeting David, Alex didn’t question his sexuality. However, when their friendship begins, he knows that the adoration for David is more than just friendship. That smitten adoration, the ‘first love’ feeling and the excitement of being in a relationship, is coming beautifully to life thanks to the impressive and uplifting acting by Lefebvre (“Une nuit, à travers champs”, “School’s Out”). Opposite him, we see Voisin (“Man Up!”, “Simon’s Got a Gift”) who gives a suave, easy-going and flirtatious performance and who certainly brings that dangerous and dark element to this movie. There’s a secretive vibe hanging above the relationship between Alex and David and both Lefebvre and Voisin do a very great job to keep that secretive, suspenseful and forbidden element alive throughout the entire movie.
If you’re watching “Summer of 85”, you can’t help but think of “Call Me By Your Name”. Yes, there are some similarities but also many differences in both style and the way this movie was made. “Summer of 85” focusses more on the difficulties gay men have to deal with, such as coming out and living in a world that fears AIDS. The fear, those gloomy thoughts and the insecurities are where “Summer of 85” truly excels. The film doesn’t only include impressive performances, eye-catching cinematography and an excellent soundtrack but it’s also about important, humane and significantly relatable topics. Yes, leaving the UK and heading off to Normandy during “Summer of 85” was a lovely trip. One you should take!