Connect with us

Movie Reviews

Last Summer ★★★★★



Director: Catherine Breillat

Cast: Léa Drucker, Samuel Kircher, Olivier Rabourdin

Release Date: London Film Festival 2023

Catherine Breillat, the master French filmmaker and provocateur, returns to the cinematic arena with Last Summer, a complex retelling of May el-Toukhy’s Queen of Hearts (2019), a narrative that deconstructs the domestic space, analyses where the line between love and lust becomes misconstrued and highlights the ultimate tragedy of youth and what it means to grow up in a vulnerable family environment. Despite it already being its feature-length film, it is truly as if Breillat herself curated Last Summer. The presentation of Last Summer works particularly well in conjunction with her 2001 masterpiece À Ma Soeur! or Fat Girl in both of their unrelenting analysis’ of love, romance, intimacy both sexually and emotionally, as well as the fragility of trust.

Last Summer observes Anne (played magnificently by Léa Drucker), a brilliant child welfare and protection lawyer who, from the very first scene of the film, is shown assisting multiple young women in cases against violent parents and adults. Anne is initially presented as an empathetic, understanding woman who selflessly ensures child safety and supports young adults in navigating the world again. She is married to Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin), a professor, whom she lives with in their countryside home with their two adopted daughters. One summer, Pierre’s biological son from another marriage, Theo (Samuel Kircher), comes to stay with the four of them. Pierre, a distant father to his cigarette-smoking, juvenile seventeen-year-old son, constantly finds himself away on business trips, leaving Anne and Theo alone with one other throughout the summer.

What begins as an awkward, uncomfortable interaction between step-mother and step-son turns into a sexually charged, complicit affair that results in contortion and sledgehammer, corporeally devastating interactions and conversations regarding family, power dynamics and the question of antagonisation. Catherine constantly toys with her audience, peeking and poking the unconscious mind in places that she knows most choose to repress and never think about. What is most profound about Last Summer is its audiovisual language. Breillat may be a provocateur, but she strikes the perfect balance between the taboo and dismantling the architecture of the human body and mind, leaving us as an audience with the most visceral and concretely human cinematic experience one can find. Similarly to Anatomy of Hell (2004), Breillat’s camera remains still, as it almost always does, observing and capturing moments of sheer human intimacy and the tragedy of what it means to be sentient and to feel.

By the time Last Summer’s seismic denouement arrives, questions of love, power, and humanity are all at the forefront of what might be one of the most devastating films of the year—the hypocrisy of giving yourself to someone and having it eat and waste you away entirely.

With the intoxicating concoction of powerhouse ensemble performances and Breillat’s raw directorial sensibilities, Last Summer is set in ice-cold stone as one of the films of 2023. A piece of work that will remain etched into the souls of its spectators for the rest of time. There are minimal experiences where, as a spectator, you can not only digest one of the most tragic archetypal narratives whilst simultaneously marvelling at a director who is at the absolute forefront of all-time filmmakers. Catherine Breillat’s Last Summer is a categoric force of nature.

Just For You