Based on the 1982 young adult British novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, François Ozon transports events to the North of France in the middle of the decade. Having read the impressionable book at just seventeen, he was just a year older than his spritely protagonist Alexis Robin (Félix Lefebvre), a longing teenager who gets swept away by dashing eighteen-year-old David (Benjamin Voisin), who comes to the rescue when his boat is capsized in a storm.

Initially there is a tone of film noir, as if we are to witness a crime of passion. In the opening scenes, Alex is dishevelled, in despair; a menacing impression of what’s to come. His recollections provide a glimpse of his pre-existing fledgling self, becoming besotted by David’s enticingly good looks and older brotherly all-consuming attentiveness. As their flirting reaches a heightened frenzy, their relationship is eventually consummated with Alex falling head over heels. Inevitably, it all comes crashing down to a fatal halt once free-loving David’s interest starts to wane.

It is a rousingly vivacious proposition from Ozon, one that really pops, whether it’s the tight script or the vividly precise construction of the 80s, appropriately complemented by cheesy 80s hits. There’s the alert, steadfast pace, fluctuating seamlessly to fit the corresponding scene, masterfully accentuating the highs and lows. This is studiously reflected in both Lefebvre and Voisin’s strong performances, keenly articulating the potency of teenage emotions. It all comes together impressively well.

There’s an endearing naturality and uninhibited quality to this gay coupling, one that is rarely captured so authentically on screen. Summer of 85 is a sublimely effervescent film, but cutting through the overload of colour and sensory stimulation lies an astute bittersweet drama about young love and loss.



CAST: Félix Lefebvre, Benjamin Voisin, Philippine Velge, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi

DIRECTOR: François Ozon

WRITERS: Adrian Chambers (novel), François Ozon (adaptation)

SYNOPSIS: What do you dream of when you’re 16 years old and in a seaside resort in Normandy in the 1980s? A best friend? A lifelong teen pact? Scooting off on adventures on a boat or a motorbike?