"Lie with Me" Source: Cinephobia

Review: 'Lie with Me' a Touching Tale of First Love and Memory

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Olivier Peyon's poignant and surprising "Lie with Me," adapted from the Philippe Besson novel, treads careful lines between comedy and drama, trauma porn and coming-of-age story, and generational divides.

Famed writer Stéphane Belcourt (Guillaume de Tonquédec) returns to his home town of Cognac – as in the drink – for the first time in three-and-a-half decades, after having left at age 17. He's spent his career writing novels that look back on a summer of love with a classmate named Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean), a prototypical cool kid with a gang of followers and a gaggle of girlfriends. Nobody knew of their relationship, and Stéphane has kept it that way even though he has never understood the abrupt way in which Thomas broke things off – or why he never spoke to Stéphane again.

The secretive affair, never properly resolved, thus becomes writerly fuel as well as personal pain for the writer, who reluctantly accepts an invitation to come back to Cognac for the bicentennial celebration of a distillery. Expected to raise a glass (even though he's teetotal) and deliver a speech at a gala dinner (even though he's been unable to commit so much as a sentence to paper), Stéphane stays at arm's length from the other attendees of the celebration, including a group of American distributors led by a charming young man named Lucas (Victor Belmondo) – until, that is, he realizes that Lucas is Thomas' son.

Intrigued, Stéphane begins to get closer to Lucas, hoping to understand the life of his long-lost first love and the reasons for which their affair ended as it did. He shies away from sharing the truth with Lucas, but Lucas has secrets of his own and when they start coming to light everything threatens to spin out of control.

A psychological and emotional thriller of sorts, "Lie with Me" puts its characters (and its audience) through a wringer and keeps us guessing from scene to scene. A storyline that could have ended up a mishmash of the Eytan Fox cross-generational gay romance "Sublet" and Andrew Haigh's recent memory-infused love story "All of Us Strangers" finds its own way, rewardingly enough, buoyed by a cast that makes each moment feel meaningful. The '80s-set flashbacks feature Jérémy Gillet portraying the young Stéphane with a mix of strength and vulnerability opposite a smoldering De Saint Jean, while the present-day scenes simmer with a growing tension between de Tonquédec and Belmondo, and feature a scene-stealing turn by Guilaine Londez as Gaëlle Flamand, Lucas' boss, who's trying to keep the celebration and everyone involved from going off the rails.

Light, spirited, and yet complex, "Lie with Me" is a mildly intoxicating cinematic refreshment.

"Lie with Me" comes to VOD on Feb. 28.

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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