In the years since it was made, Presque Rien has become a firm favourite of modern gay cinema, managing to be sexy, moving, dramatic and have something to say, while never forgetting to be entertaining.
18-year-old Mathieu is on holiday with his family at a seaside resort when he meets local boy Cedric. The two begin a passionate romance, having fun, skinny dipping, sunbathing and making love in the dunes. However for Mathieu the relationship isn’t just about holiday fun, but an escape from his severely depressed mother, moody sister and the aftermath of the death of his brother. However his sudden secrecy and long hours away make his sister and aunt suspicious.
The film moves between this and 18 months later, when Mathieu is trying to cope with the aftermath of a suicide attempt and returns to the seaside resort to try to come to terms with what happened with his and Cedric’s romance.
Although the idea of having a ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ storyline – with happy and depressed moods to match – could have been cheesy, it works surprisingly well. The film wonderfully captures the heady romance of holiday love between young people and contrasts this with the often difficult realities of life. It’s easy to empathise with the problems Mathieu faces, with his sexuality being a source of both potential release and pain.
The film also does a great job of capturing the rollercoaster of teenage emotion, when everything is felt most keenly. Love, sex, drama, angst, pleasure and pain are all dealt with in true teen fashion.
The film’s weakness though is what it seems to think is its strength. With the film cutting between the holiday and 18 months later, it seems to be asking us to question what happened to the romance between Mathieu and Cedric, but it keeps fudging the answer. While this may be because it believes this isn’t really what’s important, it’s undoubtedly a tad frustrating. It’s also difficult not to feel that while the nudity and sex scenes are erotic, they feel a tad superfluous and were added in to attract horny gay men.
However the reason it’s fast become a bit of a modern gay classic is that while it has flaws, it’s a proudly queer film that does a far better job than most of getting to the heart of the elation, confusion, exhilaration and fear of first gay romance, understanding its uniqueness and telling an absorbing tale around it.
Overall Verdict: Flawed but moving look at first gay love, the pain it can cause and the difficulties of growing up, especially if you’re struggling with your sexuality.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac