Jérémy Gillet and Julien De Saint Jean star in Lie With Me

Lie With Me, directed by Oliver Peyon, tells a heart-wrenching story of young love, first heartbreak and what it was like to be gay in a small village in France in the 1980s.  It is adapted from the novel by Philippe Besson of the same name—although in French.

It’s called Arrete avec tes ­mensonges—which roughly translates to “stop with your lies”.  The protagonist, a writer called Stephane Belcourt, is told by his mother at a young age to “stop with your lies” referring to his hobby of story writing. homophobia 

But it also refers to the nature of the love affair he had with Thomas when he was young, who, in the film, kept his sexuality a secret until his death.  Stephane returns to the village as an ambassador for a local cognac brand many years after the affair. 

Old memories are dredged up that are bitter and sweet in equal measure. Stephane meets Lucas, the son of the man he once called his lover.  Together, through ­arguments and deep ­tensions, they attempt to discover the whole truth of the man they loved.

Ideas of masculinity are challenged here as Lucas and Stephane allow themselves to become emotional and open. Together they challenge their own perspectives about Thomas. 

What is most striking about the film are the clear class differences between Stephane and Thomas. Stephane can spend his weekends and holidays ­relaxing or writing whilst Thomas is forced to work on his grandparents’ farm. homophobia 

This is also a coming of age story.  Stephane is desperate to escape the stifling rural place that constrains his creativity and freedom to be himself. On the other hand, Thomas feels that even though he wants to escape, he cannot. 

He feels obliged not just to work for his family’s survival but to conform to the often homophobic structure of straight marriage and children.

In the end, this is what drives the two apart, as Thomas must leave France to work for his family.  Interestingly, the AIDS ­epidemic is not really touched on at all in the film. This is a different story to the one in the book.

Besson writes in the novel, “We make love ­without a condom. AIDS is there though. We even know its true identity. It’s no longer referred to as the ‘gay cancer’. It’s there, but we think we are safe from it. 

“We know nothing of the grand decimation that will follow, depriving us of our best friends and old lovers, that will bring us together in cemeteries and cause us to scratch out names in our address books, enraging us with so many absences, such profound loss. It is there but we aren’t afraid yet.

“We believe that we are protected by our youth.  “We are 17 years old. You don’t die when you are ­17 years old.” 

Towards the end of the film, Stephane reads a letter left for him by Thomas before his suicide. Stephane sees how much Thomas did care for him. 

He understands how closely he read about and watched Stephane in the media and how he knew they had a deep and special relationship.  This acknowledgement is a burst of relief and catharsis for Stephane and for us. 

More than anything this shows how important it is to recognise the pain and suffering of gay men from the AIDS period and how this still informs homophobic ­attitudes to this day.

Lie With Me is in cinemas from 18 August


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