Marking the directorial debut for French-Canadian actor Charlotte Le Bon (The Walk, Mood Indigo), Falcon Lake is based on the graphic novel Une Soeur by Bastien Vivès, which concerns two teenagers, Bastien and Chloé (Joseph Engel and Sara Montpetit) who spend their summer vacations with their respective families at a shared lake cabin in Quebec. The cabin and lakefront area are known by some for being haunted, but no one quite knows by what or whom. Sixteen-year-old Chloé has invented a story about someone who drowned in the lake, but her legend is based solely on a gut feeling that her story feels true, adding foreboding to the entire work.
Chloé wants to spend her summer swimming in the lake, partying with the other teens whose families occupy nearby cabins, and attempting to figure out why she seems committed to holding on to her virginity. But as the summer goes on, what she actually ends up doing the most is hanging out with 13-year-old Bastien (nearly 14, as he reminds everyone) and forming something that walks the emotional tightrope between friendship and curious love prospect. The two spend hours immersing themselves in the ghost legends of the area, and even dress up as the ghost to take spooky photos. But they also just talk and get to know each other’s hopes and fears, and any time an outsider invades one of their conversations, it feels like an intrusion to both Bastian and the viewer.
Adapted by Le Bon and François Choquet, Falcon Lake isn’t meant to be anything resembling a traditional ghost story. If anything, its vibe (although certainly not its plot) are more akin to David Lowery’s A Ghost Story; it’s a poetic mood piece driven by the fickle, unclear and uncertain feelings of two teenagers who know they matter to each other and aren’t mature enough to express it. There are moments that feel more like a dream than reality, but most of the movie sinks into an ominous ambience that doesn’t cloud the narrative; it enhances it beautifully.
Le Bon’s direction is confident and ethereal, and when the teens fall out because of something thoughtless that Bastien says, it pains us deeply, and the film begins to spiral into something unexpected and heartbreaking on many planes. The filmmaker isn’t afraid to let things go quiet for extended stretches, and sometimes she allows a low-level tension to slip in to keep us on edge without actually frightening us. Some may find this anticlimactic, but it kept me engaged and curious about what comes next. Aside from glimpses of certain modern technology, the film has a timeless quality to it, and above all else, I think that’s what drew me into the proceedings. Seek out this lovely work, which won the Best Director award at last year’s Chicago International Film Festival.
The film opens today exclusively at the Gene Siskel Film Center.
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