Passionate Love Between Teen Boys
François Ozon’s “Summer 85” takes us in the footsteps of a passionate love between two teenagers. During that summer when he was just 16, Alexis (Félix Lefebvre), while out at sea on the Normandy coast, is heroically saved from the sinking by David (Benjamin Voisin), 18. Alexis just met the friend of hisdreams. But will the dream last longer than a summer? Alexis, who gradually gives in to his teenage passions, must hide his attractions within a family governed by a traditional father whose wife is ready to support him on the sly.
The first part of Summer 85 is about emerging romantic behaviors but Ozon’s feature film does not stop at this. He multiplies genres by taking a surprising turn in the middle of the film. The love of the two young people also looks at transsexualism through Alexis’ uncle disowned by his family and mourning is also an integral part of this romantic drama, including love presented as a way to heal wounds. The film owes a lot to the genius of its director and it owes just as much to its two main performers, Lefebvre and Voisin.
From the first minute of the film, we know from the voice-over of Alex / Alexis that there will be a death, and that is what it will be in the story that will be told. Alex will break the “fourth wall” by addressing the spectator to let them know that if he doesn’t want such a story he shouldn’t stay. We know that something… serious happened. “Summer 85” takes place in two stages: that of the narration and that of before the action.
Facts unfold in the present. They have to do with an “action” by Alex that involves the police, a psychologist, his literature teacher (Melvil Poupaud). He is a teacher who inspires Alex to write a “what happened” account. Six weeks and a little longer later, David is “saved from the water” and when the fulfillment of a promise requires him write his life for a third party (and for the viewer). This is a story where the narrator will anticipate what will come to disturb a relationship (in particular the arrival of Kate, the young Englishwoman (Philippine Velge); because something happened, the fulfillment of a promise or a wish that the viewer discovers shortly before halfway through the film.
In the summer of 1985, thousands of men worldwide died of love. Most died from AIDS and a few from an accident. From the first minutes of the film, it is clear that a youth is going to die. Ozon’s seems to want to put love back into 1980s homosexuality; to replace the AIDS and gender inequality that dominated the image of the time with passion and desire.
With a boring weekend at a swimming pool, a murder in a family mansion, or even a marriage that breaks anyway, Ozon knows how to turn this into a party time and again. In the opening scene, an innocent solo sail turns from a leisurely stretch to a life-threatening capsize in minutes, and in the same breath into a heroic rescue. Ozon does not want to offer you a real, but a remembered summer. He wants us to experience the sentimental pleasure and not look for the story.
The summer of ’85 is glorified by Ozon; even more than the thin thriller plot and the budding sexuality, the eighties themselves are the subject of the film as is the summer in which everything and everything is essential and vital for a seventeen-year-old. The summer we see is sentimental and endless. The boys are handsome, the widowed mother lascivious but no matter how interesting a mixture of adolescence, a sexual exploration and a dead eighteen-year-old, it is all silenced under sentiment in this southern French summer. The first half hour is full of recognition for some of us but what is left at the end of the party is little more than sentiment.