In the latest film by French provocateur Catherine Breillat, a prominent lawyer’s passionate affair with her 17-year-old stepson threatens both her career and family.
Fearless French filmmaker Catherine Breillat has never shied away from taboo subjects; in fact, she has made a career out of pushing the limits of spectatorship via her brazen exploration of female desire on screen. Her latest film and her first in a decade, Last Summer sees the auteur returning, in grand form, to her preferred subject.
Anne (a radiant, fierce Léa Drucker) is a prominent lawyer in her forties who lives with her loving yet overworked husband Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin) and their two young, adopted girls in a stunning, sun-soaked villa on the outskirts of Paris. A woman of plenty with as much to lose, Anne soon falls under the spell of the tousled-haired Théo (Samuel Kircher, a revelation in his first role), her husband’s rebellious 17-year-old son from a previous marriage, when he comes to stay with them. Their steamy affair seems less premeditated than accidental as Anne, coaxed out of her conjugal ennui, gradually gives into Théo’s advances, excited not only by his physical beauty but also by the thought of being lusted after by someone half her age. A coupling seemingly irresistible despite — and perhaps also because of — the risks, their surreptitious passion appears reciprocal while of course their power dynamics are anything but.
A remake of the 2019 Danish film Queen of Hearts by May el-Toukhy, in Breillat’s version the situation is psychologically charged with complexities and grey matter — even incongruity and camp — as the intricacies and contours of illicit desire and physical attraction confer not only intensity but also slippery philosophical and existential questions about fulfillment, intimacy, denial, and control.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: mature themes; nudity