The Movie Waffler New Release Review - FALCON LAKE | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - FALCON LAKE

Falcon Lake review
Two teenagers bond over a summer break in rural Quebec.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Charlotte Le Bon

Starring: Joseph Engel, Sara Montpetit, Monia Chokri, Karine Gonthier-Hyndman, Arthur Igual

Falcon Lake poster

Directorial debuts of actors tend more often than not to be stagey affairs filled with dialogue, especially if said actor has cast themselves in a lead role. That's certainly not the case with Canadian star Charlotte Le Bon, whose feature debut as writer/director, Falcon Lake, is a dreamy, cinematic mood piece that largely shuns words in favour of imagery to tell its coming-of-age story. It's one of the more impressive transitions from acting to directing I've seen in some time.

Loosely based on French comic boom artist Bastien Vivès' graphic novel 'Une sœur', Falcon Lake sees a French family head to the titular location, a scenic spot in rural Quebec. 13-year-old Bastien (Joseph Engel) and his mum (Monia Chokri), dad (Arthur Igual) and younger brother (Thomas Laperriere) are staying at the home of his mum's old friend (Karine Gonthier-Hyndman). It's one of those classic lived-in homes that French speakers favour, filled with unmade beds, graffitied walls and creaking staircases. It's a home rather than an investment, and boy it looks comfortable, the sort of place where a kid doesn't have to worry about breaking good china.

Falcon Lake review

Not that Bastien should have such concerns. He's a quiet lad, initially more interested in playing his handheld Nintendo and watching cartoons with his brother than in getting into any mischief. That all changes when he becomes beguiled by his host's 16-year-old daughter Chloé (Lily Collins lookalike Sara Montpetit). At first Chloé is none too happy to be lumbered with this awkward kid. She'd much rather spend her time drinking, smoking weed and snogging the older teenage boys whose families have pitched up for the summer. That gradually changes as she discovers that Bastien is a kindred spirit. For all her pouty front, Chloé is equally awkward, given to childlike dreaming that's cruelly mocked at one point by a boy she has her eye on. Something of a fantasist, Chloé has seemingly invented a legend concerning a ghost that haunts the lake, and is delighted to find Bastien swallows the tale. In what feels like a nod to Harold and Maude, she also likes to play dead, roping Bastien into taking pictures of her in various cadaverous poses.

Of course, being a 13-year-old boy (one who keeps reminding us he's almost 14), Bastien's hormones begin racing in the presence of the enigmatic older girl, something she seems to delight in exploiting. But what seems like mocking flirtation at first turns into what might be genuine attraction on Chloé's part. Unlike the older boys who simply want to get their grubby little mitts on her body, Bastien has a genuine interest in Chloé, though he certainly also wouldn't say no to getting his own grubby little mitts on her. But perhaps what's most appealing to Chloé about this young boy is that he represents a childhood she's unready to leave behind. She confesses that while the other girls her age are obsessed with sex, she's still a virgin and has no real interest in such matters. In Bastien's presence she doesn't have to worry about such things, as she's always the one in control. For Chloé, Bastien represents one last childhood summer. For Bastien, Chloé potentially offers that giant step into adulthood.

Falcon Lake review

With its sun-dappled setting and taboo subject of teenage sexuality, Falcon Lake could have come off as a seedy modern update of the sort of movies uber-perv David Hamilton made in the '70s, an excuse to display underage flesh in the name of art. But while this is ostensibly Bastien's story, it's easy to surmise it's Chloé who is the surrogate for the woman behind the camera. Far from a story of children embracing adulthood before their time, this is a movie about how for all their bluster, kids really just want to be kids. You might surmise that as someone who was plunged into the world of modelling when she was the same age as Chloé, Le Bon sees something of herself in her film's female lead, a young woman not quite ready to leave childhood and all its freedoms behind just yet, but who is being pressured into growing up so her looks can be commodified and possessed.

At the same time, Le Bon never loses sight of this being a movie seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy. Much has been made in recent years of the idea of a filmmaker's gaze reflecting their gender, the notion being that men film women differently than women might, and vice versa. Of course, any good filmmaker will concede their own personal "gaze" to that of their film's protagonist, as Le Bon does here. Chloé is viewed by Le Bon's camera as she would by a hormonal but shy 13-year-old boy. She's seen first as something of an apparition, appearing in spectral silhouette in the darkness of the bedroom she shares with Bastien. For a while we just see the back of her head as she retreats upstairs in that way all teenagers do, desperate to avoid hanging out with boring grown-ups, or as she walks ahead of the burdensome Bastien, who gazes intently at her flowing locks. As she begins to open up to Bastien, we begin to see more of her face, and the surly pout gives way to the self-conscious smile of a teenage girl who probably once found herself lumbered with braces.

Falcon Lake review

Le Bon's debut suggests great things to come. She's made a movie with a universal theme everyone can relate to (though the usual pearl clutchers will probably accuse her of "grooming" her young actors; sigh), but which feels intensely personal. Along with cinematographer Kristof Brandl she's created an evocative world that will have you pining for your own childhood summers. Falcon Lake is a beautiful setting, captured in a manner that almost allows you to catch the faint tang of wild heather hanging in the late summer air, of dying bonfires, of hash and suncream. It's an equally beautiful film.

Falcon Lake
 is on UK/ROI VOD from May 15th.

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