Winter Boy


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Winter Boy
"Young star Paul Kircher puts in an impressively sensitive and emotionally raw peformance." | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

Christophe Honoré wraps his own teenage experience of grief within the modern world in Winter Boy, which as the English title suggests, reflects as much on the shifting season within his central character as the externally chilly weather that infuses the film’s cool colour palette and mood. The French title, incidentally, although it appears more prosaic, Le Lycéen - High Schooler - is also appropriate although the lessons learned here don’t come in the period after lunch.

Young star Paul Kircher puts in an impressively sensitive and emotionally raw peformance as Lucas, a perfectly normal gay 17-year-old whose life tilts on its axis after tragedy strikes. This review could pussyfoot around the subject, and please feel to look away if mild spoilers offend but the death of Lucas’ father comes so early in the film and is so central to it that to not mention it feels like more of an oversight than a blessing. That Lucas had been in a much less serious incident with his father just days before only serves to add to the youngster’s turmoil, loss, guilt and what ifs all bubbling under in the run up to the funeral, as his mother (Juliette Binoche) tries to hold it together for the family and his artist brother Quentin (Vincent Lacoste) comes home from Paris.

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Honoré shoots events as Lucas remembers them, his voiceover, not exactly that, as we see him speaking, even though he isn’t directly addressing us. Most people who have experienced loss will tell you that recalling the experience is often a fragmented affair, and Lucas’ experience is just as choppy as he tries to surf the waves of grief that threaten to pull him under. Accompanying his brother back to Paris, he meets and immediately gets a crush on his housemate (Erwan Kepoa Falé, making his feature debut and who offers the sort of soulful support that should soon see him notch up a lot more) as he discovers the freedoms of being in a big city.

Loss acts as a magnifying glass, so that for Lucas and Quentin the switch between fraternal bonding and fractiousness becomes like a hair trigger - and it must be noted that if you have also recently been bereaved this may not be for you. The younger man, who has left his boyfriend behind in the country, also embarks on a series of sexual encounters, including a clever juxtaposition that shows him hooking up for casual sex intercut with him seeking solace of a more spiritual kind in church. Anonymous sex, too, is a confessional where Lucas can express things he is unable to with his family, although like everything here it is presented in as non-sensational, everyday way as possible. All the while, we sense Lucas’ internal storm, as the emotion piles up like a snowdrift.

The focus for the most part may be Lucas but Honoré rounds out all his characters, with Binoche getting her chance to deliver the emotional goods as the centre of gravity shifts to her experience towards the film’s end. There’s a melancholy for what has been lost but Honoré is never maudlin and wisely suggests that the bonds between the family will always offer hope.

Reviewed on: 20 Sep 2022
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Winter Boy packshot
Set over the course of one winter, a 17-year-old high school student struggles with grief.

Director: Christophe Honoré

Writer: Christophe Honoré

Starring: Paul Kircher, Vincent Lacoste, Juliette Binoche, Erwan Kepoa Falé, Christophe Honoré, Xavier Giannoli, Wilfried Capet, Jean-Philippe Salerio, Isabelle Thevenoux

Year: 2022

Runtime: 122 minutes

Country: France

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