Thursday, March 23, 2023


Theatre and cinema writer-director Christophe Honore (MA MERE) returns to our screens with a deeply personal, heartfelt and affecting retelling of the loss of his father and the impact this had on him as a young gay man.

The film opens in contemporary rural France with high-school student Lucas speaking not quite to camera as an unreliable narrator of his own story. We later find this is part of a therapy session. He describes his final trip to boarding school with his father, played courageously by Honore himself, who we come to realise probably committed suicide by driving his car into oncoming traffic.  Very quickly, the father is dead, and we see the rest of the film unfold in grief and trauma.

At the start of the film, Lucas is an out gay schoolboy with an active sex life. But when his father dies he decides to close off all feelings and live for physicality and the moment. He goes to Paris with his elder brother Quentin and develops a crush on Quentin's room-mate Lilio. He also flirts with religion, indulges in a random hook-up for the first time (nicely inter-cut!) and flirts with sex work in a kind of twisted act of protection for Lilio.

Clearly he is acting out, and struggling to come to terms with grief and his own sexual power as a near-adult. It's a lot and when the waves finally break the ramifications are severe and sensitively handled. 

There's so much to love in this film. First and foremost, newcomer Paul Kircher's magnetic central performance as Lucas but also Erwan Kapoa Fale's heartbreakingly sensitive turn as Lilio. I love that Honore depicts gay sex beautifully and openly, and also that he depicts the love-hate of siblings so authentically. Vincent Lacoste is fantastic as big brother Quentin. I really felt like I knew this trio and felt invested in their lives. 

But there are things I didn't like in the movie too. I didn't like that the opening therapy scene carried on into voiceover over the immediate reaction to the death. I found it mannered and distracting rather than elucidating. I think Honore means it to be mannered: he's making a point about a disjointed, fragmentary and contradictory narrator. Fine. I just could've done without it.  I also didn't like what felt like a forced focus on the mother (Juliette Binoche) late in the film. It felt as though Honore had to give her one big scene to get her to do the film.

That said, this remains one of the most beautifully told and affecting movies I've seen in a while, and well worth seeking out. I can't wait to see what Paul Kircher does next. 

LE LYCEEN has a running time of 122 minutes. It played Toronto, San Sebastian and London 2022 and BFI Flare 2023.

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