Vague Visages’ Falcon Lake review contains minor spoilers. Charlotte Le Bon’s 2022 movie features Joseph Engel, Sara Montpetit and Monia Chokri. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
French filmmaker Charlotte Le Bon’s feature debut, Falcon Lake, opens with a startling image: a young woman, face down in a body of water, apparently dead. The kid soon pops up for air, setting the stage for a movie that consistently, and mostly successfully, plays with notions of what’s real and what isn’t. Taking place entirely at the titular location — a scenic holiday destination that seems to be suspended in time, save for the anachronistic inclusion of a Nintendo Switch console — Falcon Lake is an achingly romantic, deeply sensual and sweetly sensitive sort-of ghost story that has one foot firmly in the afterlife.
Joseph Engel stars as Bastien, a shy 14-year-old who’s been dragged to the lake by his well-meaning parents and is often left to entertain his precocious younger brother, Titi (Thomas Laperriere). The protagonist’s dull vacation livens up immediately when he lays eyes on the enigmatic Chloé (Sara Montpetit), an effortlessly cool family friend who’s two years his senior but might as well be a fully-fledged adult. Le Bon shoots the story through Bastien’s perspective, but it crucially never strays into male gaze territory. Kristof Brandl’s gauzy cinematography and the boxy aspect ratio evoke summertime, giving Falcon Lake an intensely intimate feel, especially whenever the kids are alone together. But the camera never leers at Chloé.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘The Pale Blue Eye’
In fact, Chloé is introduced via the kind of image typically seen in a horror movie — cast in almost complete darkness, sitting on a bed with her hair hanging over her face like Sadako in Ringu (1998), thunder and lightning raging just beyond the window. There are genre references sprinkled throughout Falcon Lake, including a Psycho poster in Bastien, Chloé and Titi’s shared bedroom, while Engel’s character mindlessly taps out a few notes from Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Sonata Claro de Luna” — still most famous for featuring prominently in Misery (1990) — on the piano at one stage too. Le Bon appears to be hinting that there’s something darker lurking just beneath the surface, whether her characters are aware of it or not.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Soundtracks of Television: ‘Platonic’
A recurring motif in Falcon Lake surrounds a child who supposedly drowned, though the details are as murky as the water itself, and one of Chloé’s friends points out that he can’t find anything about the story online. The kids also create obviously staged photos of specters posing in and around the area, presumably with the intention of tricking fellow true believers, and Chloé loves playing dead and jumping out to scare Bastien. The protagonists also regularly engage in biting contests to see who can draw blood from their own hands. Titi, meanwhile, casually places a Barbie doll face down in a bucket of water, emphasizing how everything feels haunted and on the edge of turning violent.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘Deep Water’
Le Bon, who co-wrote Falcon Lake’s screenplay (based on Bastien Vives’ 2017 graphic novel Une Soeur ) with François Choquet, doesn’t make it explicitly clear whether there’s something supernatural going on, though much of the film is clearly open to interpretation. For the most part, the director is content to capture the giddy flushes of first love with the appropriate amount of lust, swooning and frustration. As the yearning, confused Bastien, Laperriere is a delight, equal parts squirmy discomfort and wide-eyed naiveté, rushing to get ice cream for his crush but cowering when he has to attend a party with older, more experienced kids.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Soundtracks of Television: ‘Love & Death’
Montpetit, meanwhile, is a revelation as Chloé, an outwardly confident young woman who speaks her mind with abandon while barely concealing a core of hurt which bursts out when she encounters cruel slut-shaming. The actress encapsulates Falcon Lake’s sense of melancholy with deep sighs and a keenly felt longing for a life that’s bigger and more exciting than her own. Chloé is a mess of contradictions, but in Montpetit and Le Bon’s assured hands, she’s a devastatingly empathetic creation. Moreover, far from being solely a cipher for Bastien’s desires, Chloé encourages him to face his fears and shed his shell to let people in.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Scream VI’
Alongside eloquently communicating the feeling of falling in love for the first time, Falcon Lake also captures the boredom of being dragged to your parents’ friends’ houses as a kid, where time always seemed to stand still. Le Bon taps into how powerless it feels to be a child taken everywhere by adults who are blatantly having a better time than you, and how wonderful those short, fleeting occasions are when one breaks free of those bonds. Music is used very cleverly throughout Falcon Lake to highlight these moments, particularly during a party where Bastien and Chloé finally let loose on the dance floor, surrounded by other teenagers waving their beers around.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Soundtracks of Cinema: ‘To Leslie’
Falcon Lake’s funereal tone may be a bit too emo for some, but for those willing to get swept up in its dark splendor, Le Bon’s film is a remarkably shrewd debut. The dreamy, ethereal and exquisitely muted visuals perfectly complement the woozily romantic feelings that Bastien desperately tries to conceal but are written all over his face. Dripping with ennui, Falcon Lake is a fever dream of a film — sometimes more of a nightmare — that’s as hard to shake as its many phantoms are to pin down.
Falcon Lake released theatrically on June 2, 2023 via Yellow Veil Pictures, and will be available digitally starting June 13, 2023.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.
Falcon Lake Review: Related — Know the Cast & Characters: ‘Ghosts of Beirut’