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Lie With Me ★★★



Director: Olivier Peyon

Cast: Guillaume de Tonquédec, Victor Belmondo, Guilaine Londez, Jérémy Gillet

Release: August 18, 2023

Simultaneously throughout 2023, LGBTQIA+ romantic dramas are being pushed to the fore and treated with complete contempt. They both venture outside the confines of social stereotyping and hold rigid to the shackles of decades past. Somewhere in the thick of it, Olivier Peyon’s screen adaptation of Philippe Besson’s acclaimed novel Lie With Me nestles into a reasonably familiar territory. Taking the trope of summer’s ill-fated love affair and running with it, the film isn’t exactly groundbreaking in its thematic exploration, but it certainly holds more warmth and obvious heart than its literary counterpart. 

In the summer of 1984, Stephane (Jérémy Gillet) falls head over heels for classmate Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean), prompting the two to begin a passionate yet secretive love affair. Many years later, Stephane (Guillaume de Tonquédec), now a famed writer, is invited back to his hometown to help open a distillery. As Stephane spends more time getting reacquainted with the place he once called home, he learns he has a deeper connection to host Lucas (Victor Belmondo) than he first thinks. 

The lazy comparison for anyone to make while watching Lie With Me is to Luca Guadagnino’s 2017 adaptation of Call Me By Your Name. Both are modern-historical queer trysts that toy with the highs of intimate sex and the lows of complex and shunned emotion. It wouldn’t even be remiss to consider Lie With Me and the “poor man’s version” of the latter, given that the play-for-play throughout each scene can often mirror that of Elio and Oliver’s story. However, Lie With Me is undoubtedly its own separate beast — largely because it falls on the side of mundanity. Everything about Stephane’s journey to reconcile his past can be considered “nice.” Nice memories, nice person, and a nice outcome with nice small details appearing along the way. Nothing is pushing the boundaries or presenting viewers with anything they might not have seen before.

Do films always need to push the metaphorical envelope? Absolutely not. All this means in context for Lie With Me is that it falls into the grey area of the queer cinematic canon — not hated, but not completely remembered. That being said, Peyon’s hand on the tiller makes for an adaptation that’s a success in heightening its source material. Unlike the novel, which can often be construed on the colder side of human connection, Peyon’s warm filmic styling and solid casting add the empathy needed to mull over lovers’ past. In the film’s most intimate moments, there are no distractions weighing down the inevitability of what is to come, while older Stephane works best on his own when sitting in the discomfort he has made for himself. The closing speech that Stephane routinely puts off becomes a universally poignant moment, transcending sexuality to relate to audiences on the deepest level possible.
In hindsight, the excellent and the passable count each other out, leaving Lie With Me as an acceptable retelling that perhaps won’t be too robust against the test of time. Sticking firmly in the “Sunday afternoon” pile, the film proves that even the most disheartening of romantic experiences can easily pale in comparison over time.

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