Francois Ozon’s languorous coming-of-age French movie, Summer of ’85, has a very familiar ring to it. In every respect, it resembles Call Me By Your Name, released a few years ago. If I were to go one step further, I would say it could be classified as a credible knockoff of Call Me By Your Name, starring Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet as gay lovers caught up in a fling.
Summer of ’85 will be screened online at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, which runs from June 3-13.
The central characters are Alexis Robin (Felix Lefebvre), a 16-year-old gifted writer mulling his future, and David Gorman (Benjamin Voison), his older Jewish friend who works in his late father’s marine shop in a small seaside town in France. Lefebvre, and particularly Voison, deliver fine performances.
The pair meet under extraordinary circumstances. As a storm brews, Alexis clings to his capsized boat in churning waters. David, a skillful sailor, arrives in the nick of time to rescue him. David hospitably invites him back to his mother’s house for a change of clothes and a hot drink. David’s mother, who runs her late husband’s store, is unusually friendly and kind.
It soon becomes clear that David, a homosexual, wants to befriend Alexis. Taken aback by his advances, Alexis withdraws a little. David persists and seduces him. After Alexis accepts a job at David’s mother’s shop, they become virtually inseparable.
Their relationship begins to unravel when Kate (Philippine Velge), a young British visitor, turns up. David, who’s bisexual, is romantically drawn to her, and Alexis grows jealous.
Much to Alexis’ distress, David admits he’s bored with him. “I like change,” says David, saying that variety is the spice of life. Alexis is devastated. The friend of his dreams, the person he has known and loved for six weeks now, is vanishing before his eyes.
The film makes a passing and irrelevant allusion to antisemitism and completely glosses over David’s Jewish identity, such as it is. These glancing references to his Jewish background are contrived and unnecessary.
Yet Summer of ’85 has its satisfying moments. Like its clone, Call Me By Your Name, it explores the complexities and nuances of human relationships.