The Movie Waffler New to VOD - LIE WITH ME | The Movie Waffler


Returning to his home town, an author recalls his first love.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Olivier Peyon

Starring: Guillaume de Tonquédec, Jérémy Gillet, Victor Belmondo, Julien De Saint Jean

Lie with Me poster

Angoulême light as deep and golden as the alcohol famously produced within the region spills across the apricot shaded stubble of empty fields and stark sable tree branches. Elsewhere in this establishment sequence of landscape wide-angles, barred clouds bloom the soft dying day. Or, to quote an actual French poet, "All suffocating/ And pale, when/The hour chimes,/I remember/The old days/And I cry" (*swoons*), because in Olivier Peyon's (with script collaboration provided by Arthur Cahn, and based on the novel by Philippe Besson) Lie with Me, we are situated within the autumn years of its central character, Stéphane (Guillaume de Tonquédec), a famed author (in France, where they, rightly, take such things seriously) returning to his adolescent home of Cognac for the town's centenary. Along the way he experiences a few memorial palpitations in his heart and his nether regions when he meets the son (Lucas, Victor Belmondo - yep, Jean-Paul's grandson) of his first, semi-forbidden, love. Can both come to terms with that lusty season of decades ago which led to shame, recrimination and, seemingly, a best-seller career for Stéphane?

Lie with Me review

The plot cuts between a pensive, pent-up Stéphane (in a town where expensive sauce is offered up gratuit, the character pointedly doesn’t drink) as he traverses the attendant celebrations of his hometown, and back to the nebbish schoolboy Stéphane of the past who embarks on a relationship with bit of rough Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean), seemingly the only other gay in the village. Their relationship is marked by subterfuge, clandestine meetings and, where Thomas is concerned, conflictions and shame regarding their homosexuality. It is framed as deeply exciting and sexy, yet halcyon too, as the teen boys meet at a cinematically sun-kissed quarry lake to while away the days exploring each other's bodies and hearts. No wonder that the steadfastly middle-aged Stéphane of the future pines for the simpler, priapic pleasures of this uncomplicated secret summer...

Perhaps the spectre of Thomas being so prominent to Stéphane's mindset encourages him to recognise his long-ago lover in Lucas (in actuality he looks exactly like the grandfather of the actor playing him), a tour guide for Americans vacationing in the area. And, maybe, Lucas' supposed unfamiliarity of Stéphane is a feint, with the young man himself angling for answers about the estranged father he never really knew.

Lie with Me review

Lie with Me is a handsomely photographed film, with an easy to grasp narrative concerning the past and illicit love, and, if your expectations are calibrated to such straightforward expectations, the film will slip down nicely. However, for others, the superficial, solipsistic elements of Lie with Me may well render it unpalatable.

Besson's novel intentionally blurs the lines between what-happened and what-elements-are-cannibalised-from-life-to-make-a-story with a dedication to Thomas Andrieu, a character in the book and an irl person, who died two years before the book was published in 2018. If Stéphane isn't an avatar for Besson then the film certainly leads us to consider that he is and Lie with Me duly revolves around the effect which the working class and darkly beautiful Thomas had on the bourgeoise writer then and now. Farmhand Thomas is idealised within the narrative, and his story, which with Thomas' balance of school and hard labour/lust and shame is more interesting than Stéphane's comparatively conflict-free existence, is reduced to would-be poignant inspiration for budding writer Stéphane.

Lie with Me review

Ostensibly, it seems that the relationship of decades ago has characterised Lucas' life, too, with the tour guide never bonding with the father who didn't quite get over Stéphane. Or so we trust, because the audience never gets close to Thomas, who is objectified as a fantasy figure: good looking, strong and while certainly not as clever as bookish Stéphane, is wise in a homespun manner, i.e. he encourages Stéphane's writing. It's as if the film itself assumes that the life of a lowly farmworker could never be as interesting as the life of a Parisian author and his tender reminiscence.

I always feel sorry for people who romanticise their youth and their "first love," because it is often an indication that said person is unhappy in the now, and, at worst, have probably idealised those early fumbles into a dreamy fiction which consoles with its unattainability. Of course things seemed better then! You didn't have a house to keep, a job to go to, an ever increasing loss of hope. A more interesting film would examine the arrested development of Stéphane, and challenge the author's evident ipseity, the glib assumption that other people are there to aid and abet the künstlerroman development of The Author. This would offer a tenebrous, uncomfortable edge existing alongside the visual textures of sun dappled love making contrasting the hedonistic innocence of bedroom dance scenes. Disappointingly, Lie with Me takes audience complicity in its lovelorn nostalgia for granted.

Lie with Me is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews