Metro Weekly

‘Lie with Me’ Captures the Rush and Shame of Loving in Secret

The well-acted queer romance "Lie with Me" offers a tender, tear-jerking ode to first loves lost but not forgotten.

Lie With Me
Lie with Me: Julien De Saint Jean and Jérémy Gillet

Two teenage boys in love on the back of a motorbike speed past verdant hills, the rider pressing his head gently against the shoulder of the one who’s bound to break his heart.

Variations on the scene abound in those queer coming-of-age films featuring frisky Euro lads fumbling through romance. Whether it’s André Téchiné’s seminal 1994 gay teen drama Wild Reeds, or the tragic Sicilian love story Fireworks, released earlier this year, filmmakers return again and again to that image of breathless, youthful freedom.

Fireworks also finds time for its amorous pair to sneak away for a dip at a secret swimming hole, which looks a lot like the quarry pond where French teens Stéphane (Jérémy Gillet) and Thomas (Julien De Saint Jean) go skinny dipping in Lie with Me, writer-director Olivier Peyon’s moving addition to the genre.

Stéphane and Thomas get their turn at a romantic motorbike ride through the countryside, too, in a film that lovingly traffics in the tropes of queer coming-of-age cinema, yet still finds its own distinctive voice.

Based on Philippe Besson’s autobiographical novel Arrête avec Tes Mensonges (Stop with Your Lies), Lie with Me, like the book, frames the love story of 17-year olds Stéphane and Thomas as the vivid recollection of an older man.

Forty years later, Stéphane, now a celebrated author, portrayed with sharp intelligence and searing vulnerability by Guillaume de Tonquédec, returns to the boys’ hometown of Cognac as the keynote speaker for the bicentenary celebration of a local cognac producer.

Home for the first time in 35 years, Stéphane is flooded with memories of 1984, and the fateful day when popular farm boy Thomas finds him alone in the bathroom and propositions him.

“You tell no one,” Thomas insists, before leading an eager Stéphane into their first intense tryst, inside a closed school gym. Of course, that’s not their last, as the film evolves their romance with equal dashes of innocence and desire, convincingly portrayed by Gillet and De Saint Jean. “Only you and me know,” demands Thomas. But for how long can shy, bookish Stéphane bear being kept a shameful secret? And for how long can their secret idyll last?

Lie With Me
Lie with Me: Victor Belmondo and Guillaume de Tonquédec

The answers are pieced together in flashback, among several tantalizing mysteries teased out in the script by Peyon, Vincent Poymiro, Arthur Cahn, and Cécilia Rouaud. Diverging from the novel, the film predominantly resides in the present, where adult Stéphane is shocked to discover that one of his hosts at the event and the company’s U.S. rep based in L.A., Lucas (Victor Belmondo), happens to be the son of Thomas.

That moment, when Stéphane realizes that the boy who broke his heart by disappearing from his life forever produced a son who’s now a grown man standing right in front of him, is sublimely played. In an instant, De Tonquédec reveals Stéphane’s astonishment, joy, trepidation, and, ultimately, curiosity. Stéphane is dying to know what happened to Thomas.

As it turns out, Lucas, rendered with warm sensitivity by Belmondo (grandson of Breathless legend Jean-Paul), also desperately wants questions answered. Over the course of the busy weekend’s bicentenary activities, the two strangers try to reach the truth of their complicated past, while skirting potentially devastating secrets they’re still harboring.

The film and book’s French title — Stop with Your Lies — really better suits the story here. Well-plotted to reveal all its mysteries in due time, and with tender, occasionally heartbreaking emotion, Lie with Me captures both the rush and the shame of loving in secret.

The movie also aptly conveys the constant tension in a small town like this one between the ones who’ll leave and the ones who stay. That strain has a hand in what goes down between the boys as teens, and certainly is at play in Stéphane’s present-day experience in the hometown where he never felt like he fit in. He still stands out from the crowd there.

In an amusing supporting role, Guilaine Londez is perpetually frazzled Gaëlle, the handler assigned to Stéphane while he’s in town, who has her say about what it means to stay or leave a place like Cognac. She also has one of the movie’s best scenes, when, in a perfect reflection of the French title, Gaëlle, more perceptive than she seems, declares it’s time for Stéphane and Lucas to face facts, whatever the facts are. Live your truth.

In a welcome departure from most films in this genre, Lie with Me doesn’t concern itself too much with the threat of its clandestine young lovers being discovered. There’s no anti-gay violence to speak of, no epithet-screaming relatives. There is instead the regret and remembrance that comes later, the joyful abandon and closeness in the moment, and the sting of heartbreak that lasts a lifetime.

Lie with Me (★★★★☆) is available to stream through VOD on most platforms, and can be purchased on DVD/Blu-Ray at Amazon and Kino Lorber. Visit

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