Lie with Me
R0 - America - Cinephobia Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (1st March 2024).
The Film

FilmOut Festival Award (Best Narrative Feature): Olivier Peyon (winner) - FilmOut San Diego, 2023
Jury Award (Best Narrative Feature): Olivier Peyon (winner) and Best Screenplay: Olivier Peyon (winner) - KASHISH Pride Film Festival, 2023
Prix du Public (Best Film): Olivier Peyon (nominee) - Rencontres d'automne au Cinéma Gardanne, 2022

After thirty-five years, noted gay author Stéphane Belcourt (The Double Life of Veronique's Guillaume de Tonquédec) returns to the wine-making village of his birth in the Cognac region of France to do readings and press for a commissioned piece he wrote for the local winery's bicentennial celebration. The return brings back a rush of memories of his school days and his first love in popular, charismatic boy Thomas Andrieu (The Lost Boys' Julien De Saint Jean) with whom seventeen-year-old Stéphane (A Night in the Fields' Jérémy Gillet) carried out a covert relationship over the course of their final year in a series of secret meeting places and the sanctuary of his bedroom while his parents were at work. When the young man serving as tour guide for the winery's visiting American investors turns out to be Thomas' son Lucas (Breaking Point's Victor Belmondo), Stéphane is both curious about what became of Thomas and guarded when the younger man asks fervent questions about the father he barely knew from the only childhood friend he has ever met.

More of Stéphane's memories reveal the tensions in their relationship over Thomas' insecurity about his sexuality, the pressure of secrecy, and the likelihood of their parting ways for good at graduation with Stéphane coming from a middle-class background and destined for intellectual pursuits while Thomas' own career promise is overshadowed by his obligation as the only son to take over the family farm. When the end of the school term comes, Thomas reveals that they will not even have the summer together as he must go to Spain to help out his uncle on his farm but arranges a meeting time and place to reunite at the end of vacation. Of course, Thomas does not keep that appointment and Stéphane is devastated. Now, nearly a lifetime later, after learning from Lucas of his father's death the year before, Stéphane is caught between dealing with the unanswered questions that still haunt him and the dead man's son who in some ways knew even less about his own father than his secret first love.

Based on the novel by Philippe Besson – also source novel author of the Patrice Chéreau film Son frère which made a minor splash stateside during the last turn of the century's mini-boom of indie and art house gay cinema – Lie with Me starts out with a rather cliché premise for straight or gay novelist characters alike returning to old haunts to find closure over a first love that has colored all of their subsequent relationships in a negative way, usually in regard to their ability to communicate their affection. As the film progresses through a series of cliché acoustically-scored, brightly lit, lens flaring, boldly colored, and extremely shallow-focused flashbacks contrasted with chilly, more neutrally-graded present day sequences, however, the film goes in some less predictable directions as subsequent revelations complicate the scenario and move it towards a genuinely moving resolution.

Stéphane is introduced at one of his readings as a "great writer of love […] but of the end of love. Nobody captures romantic ruins better than you," and quoted from his work "When, following grace, there is nothing but gaping holes opening up ahead." When asked by Lucas if he finds inspiration for his work in real people, he tells the half-truth that the lies his mother chastised him telling about people were stories he made up observing people. In a sense, though Stéphane remained haunted by Thomas and what could have been, he likely had made up an outcome explaining him away even if he did not put it to paper. Conversations with Lucas and with the younger man's mentor Gäelle (Benedetta's Guilaine Londez) not only reveal a portrait of Thomas later in life but things about the Thomas he knew long ago beyond what he enshrined in a photograph on their last day together. He is furthermore able to cast a positive and loving light on the bitter solution to the puzzle Lucas put together from a pieces as disparate as those he himself had to go on and lay to rest someone who was a ghost long before they were dead. An original take on a familiar scenario, Lie with Me manages to be moving and sentimental without being maudlin and cliché.


Although we have no technical specifications, the HD-lensed film looks quite serviceable on Cinephobia's single-layer, progressive, anamorphic 2.23:1 widescreen encode thanks to a generally bright and colorful image. The film is available on Region B-locked Blu-ray in the U.K. We have not seen that version but we can assume it might wring out some more shadow detail and depth in the darker scenes and perhaps a bit more variegation in some of the saturated colors on display in wardrobe and the natural settings.


Audio options include French Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo tracks. The stereo track is serviceable while the 5.1 track for this dialogue-heavy film gives a bit more spread to the score, source music, and a few sequences involving crowds but rear channel atmosphere is generally sedate. Both English and English SDH subtitles are provided, the latter adding sound effects notations and transcribing some spoken English dialogue.


The only extras are a theatrical trailer (1:42) and trailers for four other titles, including the previously-reviewed Sublime.


An original take on a familiar scenario, Lie with Me manages to be moving and sentimental without being maudlin and cliché


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