A gorgeous debut from Charlotte Le Bon, Falcon Lake is a haunting coming-of-age tale. She has created a stunning, emotional and captivating film that you won’t soon forget – you will love this film.
Bastien (Joseph Engel) and Chloé (Sara Montpetit) spend their summer vacation with their families at a lake cabin in Quebec haunted by a ghost legend. Ready to overcome his worst fears to earn a place in Chloé’s heart, the holiday becomes a turbulent pivotal moment for the young boy.
For this to be Charlotte Le Bon’s directorial debut is sensational, a story that could take the easy road and be a simple summer coming-of-age story is transformed into something wholly uneasy. You can never rid yourself of the dread surrounding Falcon Lake, amplified by our opening of watching Chloé lying motionless in the lake. We see the evolution of the relationship between the two teens, yet you can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. That impending darkness is coming for these characters, one that we are not prepared for.
Cinematographer Kristof Brandl’s use of natural light throughout provides an almost ethereal feel to Falcon Lake. It greatly removes us from the idea that this story is as simple as we would think. Dark-edged 16mm photography echoes the tone that Le Bon is after, and goodness, is it effective. Le Bon continually plays against expectation; like that opening shot, she holds onto something that should be foreboding, whether the lake or forests. Instead, we continually get these lingering shots that amp up the unease. It is expertly done to lead us astray and really subverts what we are to expect of her film.
Those of us who were teenagers and had a crush on a neighbour or a person you are in close proximity to who is a couple of years older than yourself will feel tremendously for Bastien. He is all in on Chloé, but with her hanging out with boys her age or older, he realises he has to try and grow up quickly, which isn’t practical for someone who is 13. He has to act stronger, tougher, and more mature than he is. Whether that is showing how well he can swim or saying he has seen a girl’s breasts before. He is stuck in a no-win situation, and Joseph Engel does some excellent work in getting that across in Falcon Lake,
Chloé is an interesting character in the film; she is just that bit older than Bastien, where in his eyes, she is this mature gorgeous girl with whom he gets to spend the summer. When in actuality, her confidence is quite fake; she has complete control of the young boy but next to none with those closest to her own age or that bit older. So as she continually struggles to get together with those she wants to, she leads Bastien along. She knows he is attracted to her and does just enough to keep along. Scenes at the lake as she pushes Bastien further and further into the lake at the allure of going topless and washing him and herself in the bathtub cement that point.
However, the complexity of the character and the fantastic performance from Montpetit have us second-guessing that. Is she just teasing him to make herself feel attractive, or is she doing this to stop him from falling into the same trap as she did when she was his age? She is a 16-year-old who has seemingly grown up just that bit too quickly and has immense regrets. Her relationship with Bastien appears to be just as much attraction as it is protection, not just for Bastien but mentally for herself. Couple this with her overactive imagination. Is she using that story of the haunted lake to keep the child in her alive as she is being dragged into adulthood?
The teen’s relationship is the heart and soul of the film. They have great chemistry together, so as they become closer, whether, with hugs or sharing a bed to pour out their fears, you root for something great to happen for them. Not for them to get together but for them to learn from their summer together as companions. They enrapture you as a duo; like any friendship of people that age, it is a highly complicated time. The two’s performances are ones that will immediately have people take notice as they are talents that have the brightest of futures.
Like growing up through those adolescent years, Falcon Lake is a film centred on peer pressure. While growing up, it has moments where it can be light and funny. Though not very far behind are giant gulps of sadness rife with an affective atmosphere. Charlotte Le Bon has great promise as a filmmaker after this effort, a smart and stylish film that shows us that she isn’t someone to take lightly. She allows her young actors to be free with their performances giving them air to find themselves. All three are emerging talents who will not be ignored.
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