Summer of 85

Movie review by
Kat Halstead, Common Sense Media
Summer of 85 Movie Poster Image
French teen drama has strong language, suicide references.
  • NR
  • 2021
  • 101 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie deals with the power of infatuation and first love -- both the positive and negative sides. It also teaches that reckless, hot-headed behavior has consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alexis is wide-eyed and innocent at the start of the movie, having lead a fairly sheltered life. In contrast, David is portrayed as more worldly and experienced, though shows controlling tendencies. Both are seen to act recklessly and selfishly on occasion, choosing pleasure first. Alexis' parents conform to traditional gender roles, with his father holding the power in the household and his mother staying home. David's mother is a little more liberal and runs the family business following the death of his father. A teacher at school is a supportive and encouraging presence.


A fist fight involves a character being punched to the floor with some blood on their face. An object is thrown to break a mirror and items pushed off shelves in a rage. There is dangerous driving on a motorbike. The aftermath of a crash is seen without the body, though a dead body is later shown in a morgue. Mild peril at sea involves a capsized boat in a storm. Suicide references include a character contemplating ways to take their own life, with a montage where they hold a gun to their head, slit their throat, hold pills as though to overdose, as well as portraying suffocation and hanging. Death is mentioned regularly, including that of a main character and a parent.


There is full nudity from behind and scenes of shirtless kissing and caressing. Characters are seen in bed with the implication that sexual intercourse has taken place. An adult makes inappropriate comments sexualizing a teen's body as they undress for a bath.


Occasional language includes "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," "bastard," and "a--hole." Also homophobic language such as "f--got" and "pervert."


Some branded products are seen at the breakfast table including Nutella. Some scenes take place inside a fishing shop.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol on occasion, including teens who are underage. There is an incident of intoxication involving a minor character. Prescription pills are held as though to overdose during a montage.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Summer of 85 (also known as Été 85) is a well-told French teen coming-of-age romance -- with English subtitles -- and has themes of death and suicide. When teenager Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) moves to a French seaside town he starts a relationship with David (Benjamin Voisin), but as told through a series of flashbacks, tragedy awaits. Death is mentioned frequently, with a dead body shown in a morgue. A montage also depicts a characters contemplating suicide through various methods including a gun to the head, pills, and hanging. There is mild peril and mild violence, including punching, a capsized boat, and the aftermath of a vehicle crash. Full nudity is seen from behind, characters kiss and caress shirtless and there is the implication of sexual intercourse. Occasional strong language includes "f--k" and "s--t," while homophobic terms such as "f--got" are also used. There is some smoking and drinking, including by underage characters, and an incidence of intoxication. The movie is a stylish romance with elements of crime drama woven into the structure, which deals with adult issues that may not be appropriate for younger viewers.

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What's the story?

In SUMMER OF 85, teenager Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) has just moved to a French seaside town, where he meets the slightly older, infinitely more worldly David (Benjamin Voisin). The two strike up a fast friendship, which develops into a romance as they spend the sun-drenched weeks in a bubble of hedonistic freedom. But tragedy lurks around every corner, as Alexis struggles to recount through his writing exactly what happened that fateful summer.

Is it any good?

Based on the British YA novel Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, director François Ozon transports this coming-of age drama to a French seaside town in the 1980s. Summer of 85 has a strong sense of nostalgia with songs from the likes of The Cure and Rod Stewart only adding to the feeling of a time gone by. Even without the framing device, which quickly establishes David's death and some connection to Alexis, it is never really in question that the romance will end in tears. The angelic innocent falling for the bad boy is nothing new.

But the chemistry between Lefebvre and Voisin is natural and intense in equal measure, as the pair hurtle toward the inevitable end with rose-tinted sunglasses and a devil-may-care smile. Sunny, dreamy location shots and intimate performances combine with flashes of humor and a hovering tension in what is a beautifully told, if slightly unoriginal, queer romance that should appeal as much to teens as older generations.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Summer of 85 depicts gay characters. How did it compare to other depictions you've seen in movies?

  • Discuss the strong language used in the movie. Did it seem necessary or excessive? What did it contribute to the movie?

  • How was sex portrayed in the movie? Was it loving and respectful? What did it mean for the characters involved? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Discuss how death is explored in the film. What role does it play in the story?

  • How does the movie create tension? Have you seen this kind of framing device used in other movies?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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