Summer of ’85 Review – A Coming-of-Age LGBTQ Romance Turned Tragedy

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Summer of '85, showing exclusively at the AFI European Film Festival, brings to the screen the story of young love, jealousy, infatuation and the danger of the imagination set on the sun-drenched seaside town on the Normandy coast.

The film begins with Alexis, played by Felix Lefebvre, being escorted by a French Constable and in voice over we hear the beginnings of a lifechanging story that began six weeks ago. It is then we move in flashback to the beginning of this tragic tale.


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Alexis, who is out sailing and caught in a sudden squall. His skiff capsizes and coming to his rescue David, played by Benjamin Voisin. Unnerved by the near disaster and grateful to his savior, he agrees to further aid from the seafaring champion, and he takes him home where we meet his mother, played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

The two agree Alex should take a warm bath, change his clothes, and eat a snack with them. It is obvious his kindness has a double meaning. Suddenly David is showing young Alex with gifts, and the two are becoming inseparable.

David has recently lost his father, and the sadness is still overwhelming. He and his mother own a nautical shop in the tourist community, and the loner Alex, studying literature, finds himself the object of David's affection.


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Soon David takes over the direction of Alex's life, he offers him a job, he helps him shop, he is grooming him. David insists they take trips on his motorcycle, waving dangerously in and out of traffic, speeding, pushing the limits, risk taking without consequences.

During the moments of soul sharing, David in his grooming elicits a promise, which we understand to Alex, a promise is the foundation of every true relationship, loyalty even in death.

For young Alex, the sexual advances seemed a normal extension of their friendship. As we see, David likes the thrill of the chasse and the conquest. Once it is over, the toy is boring and David does more than find a new toy, he humiliates Alex in front of his new friend, a female, Kate, the one thing Alex can never become.

This of course is the beginning of the end.


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The film highlights the seaside resort community, with summer boardwalks, carnivals, the ocean, all the sights and sounds which make beach towns a favorite for everyone. Accompanied by a killer '80s soundtrack we are drawn into the emotion, as the summer visitors, Au pair Kate, Alex and David, and others are pausing and holding onto a moment they know can't last.

Summer of '85, a coming-of-age LGBTQ romance turned tragedy, expertly mixes camp, queerness, and dark humor. The chemistry between the two actors burns as their summer fling gives way to a dangerous obsession and turns into something more deranged.

The AFI European Union Film Festival, extended through December 27, 2020, features a slate of unique and intriguing films. Summer of '85, also an Official Selection at the 2020 Toronto, San Sebastián, Rome, Chicago, NewFest, Philadelphia and Stockholm film festivals, is available to viewers located anywhere in the United States and all U.S. Territories via this link: https://afieu.eventive.org/welcome.


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Year - 2020.

Runtime - 100 minutes.

Language - English, French with English subtitles.

Country - France, Belgium.

Director - François Ozon.

Screenwriter - François Ozon, from the novel "Dance on My Grave" by Aidan Chambers.

Producer - Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer.

Cast - Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi.

Image courtesy of AFI European Film Festival. #AFIfilmeu.

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