Year:  2022

Director:  Olivier Peyon

Rated:  MA

Release:  October 12, 2023

Distributor: Hi Gloss

Running time: 98 minutes

Worth: $16.00
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Guillaume de Tonquédec Victor Belmondo Guilaine Londez Jérémy Gillet Julien De Saint-jean

… a heady cocktail of literary Queerness …

Nostalgia is a strong spirit. A top note of sweetness, ending with a burn that can bring tears to your eyes. Imbibe of it too much and you could find yourself pouring your guts out in front of a total stranger, madly reaching for a shot that is no longer there. Quite a few modern vendors have come to rely on this elixir to satisfy customers, and despite the ravenous hangovers, with the right infusions, it can still make for a particularly intoxicating mix.

As the camera follows writer Stéphane (Guillaume de Tonquédec) return to his hometown of Cognac as a guest of honour at an anniversary for a local distillery, we find him diving into a swimming pool full of nostalgia. He looks out over the gorgeous French landscape, captured in exquisite splendour by Martin Rit’s cinematography, and reminisces over past love: Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean), with whom he had a secretive and intense relationship when they were both seventeen (with the younger Stéphane played by Jéremy Gillet).

The film intercuts between scenes of young Stéphane in the throes of passionate young love, and the older Stéphane as he interacts with Lucas (Victor Belmondo), Thomas’ son. Like all hopeless romantics, Stéphane poured all of his turbulent feelings about romance into his writings, and as much as he insists that he has gotten over such things, his attentive readers likely see through that. One such reader describes him as understanding “romantic ruins”, and with the ethereal female vocals present in Bravinsan and Thylacine’s soundtrack, it appears that these ruins are haunted still.

The relationship between Stéphane and Thomas, while abrupt in its beginnings, is built with an appropriate dash of genuine intimacy to help it go down smooth. Thomas himself, a closeted bisexual, represents both the kind of self-awareness to know one’s own tastes, and the expectations placed upon him by family and being able to ‘pass’. Whether he’s in Stéphane’s arms, skinny-dipping at their secret lake, or rocking out to some Téléphone, there’s more than enough turmoil within him to understand why he would struggle with this relationship, as refreshingly pure as it is. It’s easy to understand why Stéphane would want to order another round of these memories… even if he knows that the glass ran dry eventually.

As Stéphane and Lucas begin to bond over their shared connection to Thomas, and equally in search of answers to who he really was and why he dropped so abruptly out of their lives, it takes a measure out of the Call Me By Your Name bottle in its look at the power of relationships, however fleeting. It’s also just as willing to use the zest of melodrama for flavour, but it never becomes too overpowering that it throws off one’s palette.

Lie With Me is a heady cocktail of literary Queerness about how love’s liquor, no matter how fondly we remember it, can come with a bitter aftertaste. But it’s also about how the love in one’s heart cannot stay uncorked forever, and finding the strength to have it straight with no chaser. We raise a glass to Lie With Me writer/director Olivier Peyon for giving us what is sure to be a fine vintage.