‘Winter Boy’ Review: Lost and Found

In this French drama about a teenager grappling with grief, a winning cast rises above a heavy-handed script.

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By Devika Girish

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In “Winter Boy,” a new drama by the French director Christophe Honoré, a father’s sudden death leaves his teenage son adrift in time. Adolescence pulls Lucas (Paul Kircher), a 17-year-old high schooler in a provincial French village, toward the future; grief holds him in the grip of the past. Lucas fumbles through a coming-of-age both rushed and stunted: He tries, like a grown-up, to stoically support his mother (Juliette Binoche) through her bereavement, but when he follows his older brother (Vincent Lacoste) to Paris for a week, he stumbles into juvenile misadventures.

Lucas is gay, and one of the strengths of Honoré’s film is how unassumingly the character’s queerness is depicted. Lucas is open about his orientation from the start and supported by his family; his desires and sexual escapades — one of which involves his brother’s roommate, Lilio (Erwan Kepoa Falé), who moonlights as a prostitute — are tortured by confusion and loss but not by shame. It’s a gentle touch in a movie that otherwise can be quite heavy-handed: a cloying piano score underlines every emotion with a saccharine flourish, and, throughout the film, Lucas appears as a talking head, narrating his feelings to the camera.

Much like its young protagonist, the movie feels clumsy when trying too hard to provoke: one such sequence alternates rather arbitrarily between Lucas’s conversation with a priest and an anonymous hookup he has in Paris. But “Winter Boy” shines when it allows its actors to quietly play out family dynamics, with Lacoste, Binoche and especially Kircher wearing the many shades of grief with effortless, endearing naturalism.

Winter Boy
Not Rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 2 minutes. Watch on Mubi.

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