Léa Drucker and Samuel Kircher in LAST SUMMER (2023)

LAST SUMMER is an oddly subdued affair about the impulsive and regrettable choices people make when desire takes control.

2.5 out of 5 stars

French filmmaker Catherine Breillat returns to the screen with LAST SUMMER, an unsettling anti-romance, which is a remake of May el-Toukhy’s award-winning Danish film QUEEN OF HEARTS.

The story revolves around Anne (Léa Drucker), a successful lawyer with a wealthy husband and two adopted daughters. Her life takes a complicated turn when Theo (Samuel Kircher), Pierre’s troubled 17-year-old son from a previous marriage, moves in with them. Initially, Anne resents his presence, but she gradually becomes entangled in a passionate relationship with him. However, when the affair sours and Theo confesses to his father, Pierre (Olivier Rabourdin), Anne’s career and family life hang in the balance.

Léa Drucker in LAST SUMMER (2023)

LAST SUMMER is a thought-provoking domestic drama that explores the impulsive and often regrettable choices people make when desire takes control. Breillat has made some changes to the original story, some for the better and others not. The film shifts from chilly Denmark to sunny France and relies on costume and design choices to reveal character insights, with Anne’s immaculate wardrobe hinting at her meticulous control over her life. Léa Drucker delivers a polished performance that showcases her skill.

Breillat takes her time setting up the story, allowing the audience to experience the monotony and comfort of a relationship on autopilot. However, as the affair intensifies and its consequences unfold, the pace quickens. Despite the intimate scenes, eroticism takes a backseat to the exploration of the power dynamics of sex. Samuel Kircher’s standout performance captures the essence of a real teenager, making him easy to dislike, but the overly long, breathless scenes fail to convince.

Samuel Kircher in LAST SUMMER (2023)

What sets LAST SUMMER apart is its departure from the more conventional moralistic source material. Breillat frames the film from Anne’s perspective, encouraging the audience to identify with her actions and, later, the cover-up. The director presents the story without judgment, allowing viewers to form their own reactions without assigning blame.

However, Breillat struggles to convey the necessary iciness in the story’s third act, leading to some plot developments, especially Anne’s final encounter with Théo, which feels somewhat awkward. The film becomes increasingly uncomfortable as Anne grapples with the conflict between her role as a rape lawyer and her personal impulses, particularly in the final scene when Théo attempts to rekindle their relationship.

The result is an oddly subdued affair that lacks the disruptive and confrontational impact of Breillat’s earlier works.

LAST SUMMER (L’ETE DERNIER) screens at the BFI London Film Festival on 7 October 2023