This film was sold to me as the French Call Me By Your Name. While I can see where the comparison would come from, I would argue that they are two very different movies. Beautiful movies, but very different. Été 85 (Summer of ’85) is an adaption of the novel Dance on my Grave, albeit transplanted from Britain to the beaches of Normandy in France. It tells the story of two teenagers who fall into a passionate love affair over several weeks in the summer of ’85. Naturally, this comes complete with all the emotional turmoil that can happen when teenagers fall hard and fast for each other. And then some.
There was a lot to love about this film, including the impeccable casting of the two leads, Félix Lefebvre and Benjamin Voisin. Lefebvre in particular was a standout. This was the first performance I’ve seen of his, but I hope he has a long career ahead of him. Additionally, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s character as one of the two boys’ mother was alternatively hilarious and heartbreaking. I’m not familiar with her work either, but clearly I should be. What I loved most, however, was that this film contained one of the most movingly subtle coming out scenes I’ve ever seen on film. So often these plot points are milked for every melodramatic moment, so Été 85‘s understated approach was wonderfully refreshing.
All that being said, there is one experience I will forever remember about watching this film. There is a character in Été 85 who is British, but she is in France to practice her French. I looked it up afterwards, and the actress, Philippine Velge, is perfectly bilingual. However, in the film, she speaks in a way that very clearly indicates that this character is in the process of learning French. Much like me. In fact, ever since I moved to France, it has been a nonstop battle to communicate with the locals. I usually know the words I need, and could probably spell them out perfectly, but something always goes wrong with my pronunciation. Apparently. I say this, because for some reason my brain can’t hear the difference between what I’m saying and what I’m supposed to be saying. I’m basically a perpetual Joey from Friends.
That’s why is was such an enlightening experience when halfway through this film I suddenly had an epiphany. In fact, during one of Velge’s scenes, I literally almost said out loud, “So that’s what I must sound like when I speak French!” And suddenly it all made sense. I could finally hear where I was going wrong. Of course, this didn’t mean I was suddenly fluent. But at least I now had an auditory reference point, and that’s not nothing. And all because of a delightful film about two boys falling in love.
Summer romances, over the top mothers, and audience epiphanies. Été 85 was a wonderful night at the movies.
Suggestions for artists I should check out? Please contact me with your ideas. I hope you enjoyed your daily helping of art!