‘Falcon Lake’ Captures the Vulnerability and Terror of Teenhood

Those few years that stand between adolescence and the teen years are an awakening. They are consumed with overwhelming discovery and loss, as is depicted in Falcon Lake. For 13-year-old Bastien (Joseph Engal), the summer he travels to Quebec from France with his family changes everything. Tall and lean and with no cell phone access until he turns 14, Bas seems excited about his summer vacation. 

He spends his days entertaining his toddler-age brother Titi (Thomas Laperriere), playing with his Nintendo Switch, and avoiding the waters of Falcon Lake. A scary incident from his younger years makes swimming an activity he actively avoids. While Bas seems content at first to spend his days lounging under the near-constant overcast sky, he finds himself the unlikely companion of 16-year-old Chloé (Sara Montpetit), the daughter of his parents’ friend with whom they are staying. Bas and Titi are also sharing a bunkbed in Chloé’s bedroom. 

Joseph Engal as Bastien and Sara Montpetit as Chloé lay on the grass 'Falcon Lake'
Joseph Engal as Bastien and Sara Montpetit as Chloé in ‘Falcon Lake’ | Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Charlotte Le Bon presents a different type of coming-of-age story

For Bas, Chloé is an immediate source of fascination. The dark-haired beauty is obsessed with death and ghost stories. “It’s apparently fun to drown,” she says at one point in the film. Despite the age difference between Bas and herself, she seems eager to have Bas around. Though Chloé has also earned the affection of some of the older guys in town, she’s calmed by Bas’s presence and innocence, first as a little brother, then as a true friend, and later perhaps something more. 

There have been plenty of coming-of-age films, especially narratives that capture the long sticky summer days just before everything changes in a teenager’s life. Yet, with her directorial debut, loosely adapted from Bastien Vives’ graph novel Un Soeur, Charlotte Le Bon manages to do something different. 

Chloé and Bas’ vulnerability are at the heart of ‘Falcon Lake’

So much of teenhood is about our desire to fit in, feel accepted, and get along, even if it goes against how we genuinely feel. There is a desperation to be seen and heard even when the desire for solitude can feel like a balm. With all of his wide-eyed disbelief, Bas feels seen the first time Chloé invites him to hang with her, and Chloé, in Bas’s presence, becomes more than just an object of the male gaze. Despite the dark tone that wraps around the film, the vulnerability that Chloé and Bas allow themselves to feel in each other’s presence is what drives Falcon Lake

‘Falcon Lake’s tragic ending isn’t what you’d expect

Typically, films depicting teenhood are cast under the blazing hot sun. Warm colors make everything feel more saturated and lively. Falcon Lake is different from the start. Shot on 16mm, the film is dark, boasting cool colors and constant rainstorms. There’s a suggestion from the opening that something earth-shattering is on the horizon. Yet, even with that eerie feeling, the tragic ending is not quite what one might expect. 

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