Summer Of 85 Review

Summer Of 85
1980s Normandy. Teenager Alex (Félix Lefebvre) meets tall, dark and handsome David (Benjamin Voisin) after the latter rescues the former during a sailing snafu. The pair become fast friends, then something more, until English au pair Kate (Philippine Velge) arrives on the scene.

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

23 Oct 2020

Original Title:

Summer Of 85

A throwback to his early sexy ones (Young & Beautiful, The Swimming Pool), François Ozon’s Summer Of 85 is a melancholy-tinged seaside romance that plays out over one cruel summer (yep, Bananarama are on the soundtrack). An adaptation of Aidan Chambers' 1982 young adult novel Dance On My Grave (Ozon continues his knack of finding fresh source material), it’s a film that beautifully captures the thrill of being young and the rush of first love, but keeps a mystery element bubbling in the background so that things not only don’t become too saccharine, but also land up on a surprising note.

Summer Of 85

The protagonist is death-obsessed 16-year-old Alex (Félix Lefebvre) who is being held in police custody following the death of older, more worldly-wise David (Benjamin Voisin). With the social worker telling him he will get sent down unless he tells the police what happened, he is encouraged by his writing teacher Mr Lefèvre (Melvil Poupaud) to put his thoughts on paper if he is unable to verbalise them.

Shot on Super 16mm, it sometimes feels like it is _from_ rather than about the ’80s.

From here on in, the action unfurls in flashback (cue The Cure’s barnstorming 'In Between Days'), with Alex meeting David when the latter rescues him in a boating mishap. What follows is a delightful middle section, with the pair getting to know each other through fairgrounds, going to movies, helping a drunk on the street, dangerous motorbike rides and a fantastic set-piece in a nightclub set to Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ (it seems to have taken seven years to cross the channel). Yet the idyll begins to unravel when young, English au pair Kate (Philippine Velge) appears on the beach and creates a rift between the up ’til now happy couple.

It’s Ozon in less subversive mode (although a plan to see David’s dead body involves a cross-dressing gag), throwing back to the ’80s in obvious (Kate dresses like that era’s Madonna) and less obvious (how many times does Lloyd Cole And The Commotions’ ‘Forest Fire’ appear on a soundtrack) ways — shot on Super 16mm, it sometimes feels like it is from rather than about the ’80s. Yet it never feels like a Wedding Singer nostalgia fest. The score by Jean-Benoît Dunckel, one half of French pop duo Air, feels fresh and different, and Lefebvre and Voisin, a real force, make it feel heartfelt and real.

A holiday romance perfect for the dark nights with the added bonus of a flashback structure that builds genuine intrigue into the outcome. It also includes a use of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’ that guarantees its place on your 2020 movie playlist.
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