TIFF 2020: SUMMER OF 85 REVIEW

Rating: 4 out of 5.

François Ozon’s Summer of 85 is a French LGBTQ+ coming-of-age movie that chooses to gloss over the ‘coming out’ phase of the characters and instead focus on their relationships themselves, irrespective of sexuality. It’s refreshing to see LGBT features like this, that don’t dwell on the characters orientation – even more refreshing that this feature is set in the 80s and still doesn’t feature excessive homophobia or acceptance issues.

The film stars Félix Lefebvre as Alexis, a teenager at a crossroads who is deciding whether to continue his academic education or go into the world of work. On a sailing trip, he meets David (Benjamin Voisin) – Summer of 85‘s ‘manic pixie dream guy’. He is older, confident, adventurous, and outspoken. David takes charge of Alexis’ summer and the pair quickly begin an intense, passionate relationship.

Ozon treads carefully and quickly between elements of a thriller; a drama; a campy coming-of-age love story; and a comedy. You’re kept on your toes, particularly in the first half of the movie, lurching between flashbacks that keep things interesting and tell you vaguely what’s coming before it happens – Summer of 85 tells you its twists & turns upfront, and then asks you to watch as they unfold.

Lefebvre and Voisin have amazing on-screen chemistry that makes for fantastic viewing; further helped by an incredible wardrobe filled with excellent 1980s outfits. Summer of 85 doesn’t lean too heavily on its period setting, thankfully, as the standard nostalgic soundtracks in retro-inspired blockbusters/TV series are starting to get a little overused. It’s a beautiful movie to watch without throwing its setting in your face.

The story is intriguing and engaging – occasionally over the top, but always fun to watch. Everything is wrapped up a little too neatly too quickly in the final moments – if you think about it too much, some problem plot points start to get in the way. But I’d be lying if I said that effected how much I enjoyed Summer of 85. It’s up there as one of my favourite LGBTQ+ movies – choosing not to rely on too many tropes of the genre and instead giving us a new story.

This is not the story of how Alexis accepts his sexuality, or how he comes out to friends and family; this is the story of Alexis becoming an adult. Personally, seeing a movie like this when I was a young, closeted LGBTQ+ kid would have helped normalize my feelings much more than a cliche coming-out tale would have. We need more movies like this, and it’s an excellent step in the right direction.

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