François Ozon rolls back the clock for his latest film, examining the nature of young love through a somewhat macabre lens. The French filmmaker has often found unique and often bleakly funny means of expressing the complexity of relationships over his career. With Summer of 85, Ozon offers something more nostalgic, something less cynical, but also a story of young gay love in a pre-AIDS era that has a lingering darkness hanging over it.
The film follows 16-year-old Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) who lives in a small seaside town in Normandy. One day in what is seemingly going to be a lazy summer, he is saved from a capsize by the charming David (Benjamin Voisin). The two strike up a friendship as Alexis begins to work with and hang out with the older free-spirited David. As the relationship deepens, Alexis’ summer becomes one of first love, and of first heartbreak.
Based on Aidan Chambers novel Dance On My Grave, this is a coming of age tale that has death hanging over it from the very first moments. Alexis is fascinated by mortality and how death is treated in different cultures. A somewhat morose subject for a 16-year-old boy, perhaps, and it adds an almost sinister element to the proceedings early on as a sense of mystery is established surrounding the fate of David. As Alexis recollects his summer experience, his fascination with the subject and that sense of foreboding melts away into a story that’s strangely sweet, making for an experience that’s often odd, and not always in that satisfying a manner.
Full review over at Filmhounds Magazine, originally published on October 19th 2020.