Review: Falcon Lake is stunning. One of those movies that makes you recontextualize everything you’ve watched leading up to it. A moody and intoxicating look at hopeful youth and the saddening sense that adulthood is inevitable.
Falcon Lake is the debut movie from director, writer, and actress Charlotte Le Bon. The movie has garnered wide acclaim over the past few months as it has traveled from festival to festival, most notably at Cannes in 2022, where it screened in the Directors’ Fortnite section and was eligible for the Caméra d’Or for best feature directorial debut.
I had seen the movie appear in a handful of year end lists last year, mostly by critics that were either based overseas or had the ability to get their hands on it at one of these festivals. I knew that I wanted to check it out at some point, but I wasn’t sure when the movie would be readily available to audiences – either screening in theaters or on VOD at home.
And many movies like Falcon Lake unfortunately get lost to time because of this fluctuating availability depending on where you live and what services are available to you. If it wasn’t for my endless scrolling through VOD platforms, there’s a chance it would’ve slipped through the cracks. And that would’ve been a travesty because Falcon Lake is quite fantastic.
Falcon Lake is one of the most assured and confident debuts I’ve seen in quite some time. Director Charlotte Le Bon has complete control over every aspect of the movie, from the quivering and understated performances by the two fantastic leading actors to the keen sense of tone. Never once does the movie slip up and cause any unnecessary worries that the quality level is going to dip – it swims along smoothly and effortlessly from beginning to end.
That’s not to say that there aren’t common events that happen within Falcon Lake, because after all, it is a coming-of-age story that’s been regurgitated time and time again. But Falcon Lake still manages to find so many new angles that feel bewildering and unique.
The movie follows Bastien as his family escapes for a getaway summer vacation to a remote cabin on the shore of Falcon Lake. There, they share the shack with another family, where Bastien meets the slightly older Chloé, whose elder habits consist of sneaking out to party and mingle with the other teenagers residing in the area.
As Falcon Lake moves along, the two bond over tall tales of ghosts meandering through the world, whether you can cause yourself to bleed from self-inflicted bite marks, and a handful of other idiosyncrasies that feel plucked straight from real life experiences. Through these few days, Bastien and Chloé learn about the endless possibilities of feeling like an invincible youth, while also enduring the pain that goes along with maturing and leaving to go back to the real world.
As is the case with nearly every movie trying to accomplish what Falcon Lake does so easily here, the movie only works as well as the two leads and the connections that they’re able to build through their short time together. Bastien and Chloé start the trip as strangers both at awkward points in their teenage lives, but the growing interests in one another become clearer and clearer, while still feeling completely authentic and sincere.
Falcon Lake feels singular in a way that is so difficult to accomplish in 2023. Teenage romance movies are circulated by the dozens in the era of streaming services (Netflix churns out a remarkable number of horrendous attempts at this every year), but they never feel as cared for or honest as this movie does. Take the box aspect ratio, which seems like a simple choice done for aesthetic purposes, but it adds layers of nostalgia and retrospection that gives the movie even more character beyond the string of sensitive and intoxicating interactions between these two characters.
And while I’ve read written pieces about the aspects of moody horror in Falcon Lake – largely due to the tale Chloé tells early on of a ghost that stalks the lake their cabin is on – I thought I was in for a more mysterious movie than what I got. If anything, the story is used more for effect to show the wonderous minds that go into youthful exuberance – never once does a character in Falcon Lake feel the weight of their own choices until the closing moments.
And those closing moments will be the ones that make or break the film for many, because the straightforward narrative shifts significantly into a story much more ethereal and mysterious. Bastien’s fate is left ambiguously in the air, allowing audiences to decipher how his story ends.
Very rarely does a director establish themselves the way Charlotte Le Bon does here. As a cross in styles and ideas between Céline Sciamma and Richard Linklater, I can only hope that Le Bon continues to diverge and craft her own lane of filmmaking, because this is quite an incredible and fully realized vision right from the jump.
Where to stream Falcon Lake: VOD
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Film Cast and Credits
Joseph Engel as Bastien
Sara Montpetit as Chloé
Monia Chokri as Violette
Arthur Igual as Romain
Anthony Therrien as Oliver
Director: Charlotte Le Bon
Cinematography: Kristof Brandl
Editor: Julie Lena
Composer: Shida Shahabi
Falcon Lake movie on Letterboxd
Falcon Lake movie on IMDb