Lie With Me – movie review

In Olivier Peyon’s Lie With Me, noted author Stephane Belcourt (Guillaume de Tonquédec) returns to his childhood hometown in the Cognac-producing region of south-west France after a 35-year absence and faces some of the ghosts of his past. He has been invited to be the guest speaker and brand ambassador for the town’s signature cognac brand during the town’s bicentennial celebrations. But his return brings back memories of his teenage love affair with the closeted Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean), his first great love, during the summer of 1984. Both boys were 17, but Thomas insisted that their relationship be kept a secret out of both fear and shame.

During his stay at a local inn Stephane meets Lukas (Viktor Belmondo, the grandson of legendary French star Jean-Paul Belmondo) who is the tour guide for a group of Americans visiting the town’s famed cognac distillery. Lukas turns out to be the son of Thomas. He is desperate to learn more about his father who abandoned him as a child, while Stephane is keen to learn more about why Thomas left him so suddenly after their final exams and moved to Spain. Stephane never heard from Thomas again. But both men learn more about Thomas during the several days of the bicentennial celebrations, and their discoveries lead to some painful memories and uncomfortable truths about the nature of their relationships with the enigmatic Thomas.

Lie With Me is a superb gay-themed coming-of-age tale based on the semi-autobiographical novel written by Philippe Besson (Rasputin). Its original French title Arrete avec Les Mensongs (Stop With Your Lies) is more suited to the material, which not only deals with hidden lives and secrets, but which explores the creative process of writing. This includes how much of his own persona and personal history Stephane has injected into his best-selling short stories that explore the different facets of love and relationships.

Moving seamlessly between the two distinct time frames of the narrative director Peyon (Les Petites Vacances) captures the pain, pleasure and yearning of teenage love, and the emotions the film evokes are palpable and gives the film its bittersweet quality. Lie With Me is a handsome looking production. It has been beautifully shot on location in the region around Cognac by cinematographer Martin Rit (The Third War) and his wide screen camerawork gives us some great vistas of the countryside.

The film is grounded by the great performance from de Tonquédec (Happy 50), who conveys a range of emotions and captures Stephane’s emotional turmoil. There is also great chemistry between him and Belmondo as their characters find a strong connection as they explore their feelings of abandonment. De Saint Jean and Jérémy Gillet (who plays the the 17-year-old Stephane) develop a palpable and easy-going chemistry that defines their relationship. Guiliane Londez brings energy, humour and warmth to her role as Gaelle, the long suffering but patient event organiser who is responsible for ensuring that Stephane meets his obligations during the celebrations.

Greg King

Other reviews you might enjoy: