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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Lie With Me ****

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

Director: Olivier Peyon

Country: France

When famed writer Stéphane Belcourt (de Tonguédec ) returns to Cognac, his home town, he meets Lucas (Belmondo) who he soon realises is the son of his – now deceased – teenage love, Thomas (de Saint Jean). As the young man begins to learn the truth about his father, the older novelist is haunted by the memory of his first love, for whom great tragedy befell over the thirty-five years since they parted.

Part French coming-of-age drama, part tragic-nostalgia, it delicately interweaves romance, tragedy, reflection, and longing. With a talented ensemble cast, it skilfully captures the essence of youth and the complexities of living as a gay person in a place and time where that wasn’t accepted - or acceptable.

While the characters in the present carry the narrative, the real stand-out performer is Julien de Saint Jean, who plays the young Thomas – masculine, brooding, bearing the weight of maintaining his family’s farm - with the perfect balance between teenage effervescence and ashamed self-loathing; happy to live his truth in secret, but absolutely incapable of letting that reality be seen. The chemistry between him and the young Stéphane (Gillet) is palpable, drawing the audience into their passionate and bittersweet connection, albeit doomed to fall foul of being extinguished by secrecy.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Phillippe Besson, tragedy plays a significant role in the narrative, especially in the final act, adding depth and emotional weight to the story. The film delves into identity, self-discovery, and the intricate nature of human emotions. Nostalgia permeates the entire film, capturing the essence of youth and the fleeting nature of time. Through evocative visuals and poignant storytelling, the movie takes us on a wistful journey, evoking personal memories and emotions. It serves as a reminder of the beauty and innocence of youth, and the transient nature of moments cherished.

Olivier Peyon's direction is restrained, bringing forth a deliberate visual normalcy cast against an emotionally resonant backdrop. The cinematography and soundtrack harmoniously blend with the narrative, immersing the audience in the film's atmosphere and intensifying its emotional impact.

With its nuanced depiction of romance, tragedy, reflection, and nostalgia, Lie With Me creates a captivating tapestry of love and shame. Strong performances, an intelligent screenplay, and adept direction make it a compelling choice for lovers of heartfelt storytelling. A moving gut-punch of lost love, this is an exceptionally sad – but life-affirming – reflection on the way life used to be.

UK Release: 18th August 2023 in cinemas, released by Peccadillo Pictures

1 Comment

Odie Dewar
Odie Dewar
May 11

I think Lie With Me is one of the finest films I've ever seen. Admittedly, I don't know much about film criticism, but I am a playwright and a screen writer, and I feel the script here is excellent. It was amazingly well-constructed, with a plot that built on itself from beginning to end, and with no unnatural speeches. Your review of Lie With Me is also very complementary. But what do you see here that determines this film is worth four stars, when a similar film, Call Me By Your Name, is awarded five? I guess what I'm asking is "what does it mean to be a film critic?"

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