SUMMER OF 85 (2020) is a poignant, often joyful French coming of age, gay summer romance film. French filmmakers seem to especially know how to make good movies about teenage love and angst. This one is set in Normandy in 1985, over most of the summer.
The pretty and talented Felix Lefebvre plays Alexis/Alex, a sixteen-year-old fascinated with death. (Such fascination is a recurring theme, I’ve observed, in a good share of French and other European movies.) While capsized in a small sailing boat during a thunderstorm, he is rescued by eighteen-year-old David (Benjamin Voisin). The older boy eventually seduces the younger, who falls passionately in love with David. The narrative weaves between flashbacks and less than two months later, with darling Alex proceeding to write about his intense time with the more wild, free-wheeling David. Both of the young men are sexy and adorable, with Alex being especially adorable of the two. He comes across as vibrantly youthful yet also a thoughtful old soul, making him unique, interesting, and compelling.
I cried in a few places and laughed in others, feeling satisfied and complete with the movie’s resolution. I would rate it as a distant second in quality to the far more panoramically filmed and sensual, but similarly themed gay summer romance CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017), which also takes place in the 1980s.
The soundtrack was delightful, with The Cure’s classic, plaintive song “In Between Days” particularly standing out for me.
I was just under one year older than David’s character when this little screen gem takes place. This lent an extra layer of sentimentality for me while watching SUMMER OF 85. Other gay, early Gen X‘ers will also particularly enjoy this sweet and thoughtful film, though I think the piece manages to be relevant for today and a wider audience.
This is a crisply done, emotionally moving, engrossing movie about love in its different forms— romantic, familial, friendship, and love of life.