#TIFF20: “SUMMER OF 85”
By David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Alex (Félix Lefebvre) is out sailing off the coast of Normandy when his boat capsizes. By chance, David (Benjamin Voisin) happens to be sailing by and offers to help him. There is an instant spark between them, and David quickly offers Alex a job to work at his mother’s nautical store in town. But as their friendship grows into something deeper and more intimate, it becomes clear that they both have their own expectations of the relationship.
When I read the initial descriptions of François Ozon‘s Summer of 85, it immediately evoked memories of discovering the Oscar-winning Call Me By Your Name back at TIFF ’17. Much like that film, Summer of 85 is filled with gorgeous, sundrenched visuals of European vistas and the handsome young men who inhabit them during the 1980s. The nostalgia for this carefree era practically pulses through the Film’s veins. The colours are washed out and dreamlike, with pastels highlighting nearly every frame of the Film’s breezy 100-minute running time. The chemistry between leads Lefebvre and Voisin feels dreamlike as well, palpable and vivid in every way. The young actors only have a handful of credits to their names, but the strength and emotion they bring to these characters suggest wisdom well beyond their years of acting.
And the way the Film uses Rod Stewart’s “Sailing” in two key scenes is haunting and beautiful. It becomes practically transcendent.
Saying all that, Summer of 85 is far from perfect. The Film’s story is a jumbled mess, with a constantly pivoting tonal structure that never feels satisfied. It is meant to feel dreamlike, mysterious and above all else, nostalgic, but ends up feeling bewildering and completely inorganic much too often. Young love is in itself, a wild and chaotic experience – but the Film does not even feel like it properly taps into that. Worse, the motivations and characterizations are minimal and non-existent for most of the Supporting Characters. They seem to exist simply to move the Plot along from point to point (which is particularly odd for one central character who should be substantially more important to the plot than they actually are). Even the motivations for Alex and David are simplistic at best and never fully drawn-out. I am not sure if this is all intentional or not, but it takes away from so many of the great things the Film has going for itself. It is still enjoyable to watch, but there was potential for it be so much better.
SUMMER OF 85 screens at TIFF ’20 as follows:
Sun, Sep 13
RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place
Tue, Sept 15
Online at Bell Digital Cinema
Thu, Sept 17
TIFF Bell Lightbox