Director and co-screenwriter Olivier Peyon exquisitely captures both the heady ups and downs of young gay romance and the melancholy of memory in Lie With Me (Arrête avec tes mensonges), an adaptation of Phillipe Besson’s acclaimed novel. Excellently shot and filled with pitch perfect-performances, this is a real treat.
Novelist Stéphane Belcourt (Guillaume de Tonquédec) returns to Cognac, the hometown he fled in his youth. He is there as a guest of honour at a cognac distillery, for which he has written a new short story. When he meets a young man named Lucas Andrieu (Victor Belmondo), who shares a surname with his fateful high school love, Thomas Andrieu, Stéphane is intrigued.
Lie With Me is partially told in flashbacks to 1984, where nerdy 17-year-old Stéphane (played by the pixie-like Jérémy Gillet) is confronted by the edgy and sexy Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean) who instigates a secretive affair. What starts off as just sex between unlikely bedfellows grows into something more intimate as Stéphane falls in love, while Thomas remains alluringly aloof.
Peyon manages to balance the various elements with finesse, in a thoughtful film that slowly reveals its layers. The older Stéphane is on a totally different path to the young Lucas, but as they begin to open up about their lives they manage to help each other heal. It’s this continuous revelation of information and motives that keep us engaged. For a film with relatively little action, the emotional journey is complex and rewarding. There are shades of François Ozon’s equally seductive and fraught Summer of 85 in the flashback sequences juxtaposed with the more refined and stately imagery in the older Stéphane’s storyline.
It all works so well because of a flawless cast. The links between young and old Stéphane feel clear, the similarity between Lucas and Thomas is believable, and each actor delivers such a strong performance, including Guilaine Londez as Gaëlle Flamand (Stéphane’s main point of contact with the cognac distillery). Their work is beautifully captured by cinematographer Martin Rit.
With stunning visuals worth seeing on the big screen, and emotive performances from the entire ensemble, Lie With Me is a bittersweet lament for lives lost to fear and repression. It should find its place in the canon of heartbreakingly beautiful, mainstream friendly, queer films like Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country, and Brokeback Mountain.
By Chad Armstrong
Lie With Me (Arrête avec tes mensonges) plays at 6:30pm on Thursday, August 24th, 2023 as part of the 10th Queer Screen Film Festival in Sydney, Australia. Click here for tickets & more information.