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Steph Green

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Falcon Lake – first-look review

First-time director Charlotte Le Bon draws out sweet performances from her young co-stars in this idyllic coming-of-ager.

It’s apt that multihyphenate Charlotte Le Bon – who in her short career has already ticked off modelling, presenting and acting – described a 2016 exhibition of her illustrations as “the expression of poetic isolation”. This sensibility flows through the dreamy and ephemeral Falcon Lake, which sees 13-year-old Bastien (Joseph Engel) and 16-year-old Chloe (Sara Montpetit) embark on a will they-won’t they friendship during one balmy summer in the picturesque Laurentides region of Québec.

Based on the graphic novel Une Soeur by Bastien Vivès, this adaptation introduces us to Bastien at an awkward age: a gangly pre-teen whose biggest fear in life is to be caught masturbating by his parents. It’s a fear that his new friend Chloe mockingly acts out to embarrass him, in what is a believably cheek-reddening moment for a boy on the cusp of sexual maturation.

A cosy aspect ratio locks us into his gaze throughout his holiday, with Chloe’s long, flowing hair filling the frame, flanked by rippling lakes, verdant woodland and flickering log fires. As the older love interest, Montpetit is particularly likeable in a role that could have easily fallen prey to using the younger suitor as a plaything. Instead, their connection is readily believable, and only betrayed when Bastien insults her generosity towards him.

It’s hard to reinvent the wheel when it comes to either the holiday romance or the coming-of-ager, but Le Bon astutely validates how important and all-consuming first love can be. It’s an absorbing look, too, at the rickety bridge between childhood and adulthood: when having a bath or sharing a bed with someone takes on a new meaning, or when offering someone an ice cream when they’re crying becomes just a little too infantile. And it’s also about the startling realisation, too, that your childhood is over. For Bastien, this manifests in the jarring sight of a little fawn on the roadside, neck broken, glassy eyes.

The director has namechecked Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love and Call Me by Your Name as influences, but also, intriguingly, the psychological thriller Take Shelter. A welcome throughline in Falcon Lake – which reflects the expiry date on the pair’s sun-dappled idyll, as well as introducing a hallucinatory layer to proceedings – is a spectral, ghostly figure that stalks the periphery of the water. Local legend has it that a stranger once drowned in the lake, and Bastien takes on this role with glee, childishly wrapping himself in a white sheet that reinforces his virginal innocence for Chloe’s giddy entertainment.

Camerawork is intuitive and enveloping, while Shida Shahabi’s rousing score is a stand-out, externalising the orchestra of emotion housed in these two small bodies for us all to feel. Falcon Lake is effortlessly funny and sweet in a way that kids themselves just are sometimes, and yet the low-stakes narrative never condescends. In its own quiet and ruminative way, it’s a sweet and sharp elucidation of the agony and, well, inconsequentiality, of first love.

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Published 23 May 2022

Tags: Cannes Charlotte Le Bon Directors’ Fortnight

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