“Falcon Lake” plumbs the desirous depths of adolescent memory

Charlotte Le Bon’s ethereal feature film kicks off UW Cinematheque’s summer schedule on June 28, at 7 p.m.
Teenage Bastien and Chloé stare each other down by a partly overgrown lakeside in hazy sunlight. Both wear slightly oversized summer clothes.
On a summer’s day by the lake, Bastien (Joseph Engel) and Chloé (Sara Montpetit) tease each other about their secret fears, smiling as they stare each other down.

Charlotte Le Bon’s ethereal feature film kicks off UW Cinematheque’s summer schedule on June 28, at 7 p.m.

Charlotte Le Bon’s feature-length debut, Falcon Lake (2022), delights in a playful self-awareness of coming-of-age tropes in an ethereal drama based on Bastien Vivès’ seemingly autobiographical 2017 graphic novel, Une sœur. In layering familiar narrative dimensions with a wandering sense of supernatural fantasy, Le Bon sets up two families converging at a lakeside cabin in Gore, Québec. Naturalistic dialogue, at once innocently flirtatious and carnal, reveals soon-to-be 14-year-old Bastien (Joseph Engel) crushing on his mother’s friend’s daughter Chloé (Sara Montpetit), not quite three years his senior.

The premise and approach to the material somewhat echoes the menace and teasing tenderness of Eliza Hittman’s It Felt Like Love (2013), with the same warm, analogue color depth of Alice Rohrwacher’s films (2018’s Happy As Lazzaro or 2014’s The Wonders, both shot by Hélène Louvart). Falcon Lake always seems to be caught in the soft summer light of either dawn or dusk, or both—perhaps a projection of the haze of Bastien’s yearnful memory. In these sweltering months of the year, it’s as if the daylight and his fraught infatuation never fully wane; they’ve just momentarily submerged or suspended in the rippling water where he and Chloé tend to drift in their enchantment.

Hailing from an acting background herself, Le Bon pays ample attention to the bodies, language, and body language of both Engel and Montpetit. Whether it’s a strikingly funny moment that involves masturbation, a half-drunken jealous stare across a bonfire and a sea of dancing bodies, or an affectionate nestling of a check into another’s back, scenes flourish in the exceptional care imparted to characters’ emotional logic. In these slices of life, mechanics of a resolute story are tethered to recurring murmurs of tragic folk legend. Rearing their head in interstitial framings of a figure in a white sheet standing among the waterlogged landscape, these hauntological touches evoke David Lowery’s A Ghost Story (2017).

Ultimately, Falcon Lake emerges as an inviting, subtly original union of modes and genres, which is forged almost solely in the wistful relationship between two teenagers’ alternating social dilemmas and sweetly intimate confessions. An artfully fitting summer-season opener for UW Cinematheque on Wednesday evening, June 28.

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