In Living Out Loud, Anna Quindlen writes: “It is the nature of adolescence that there is no past and no future, only the present, burning as fierce, bright, and merciless as a bare light bulb.” For girls as well as boys, it is time for adventure, experimentation, and excess energy that has to be dispelled somehow.
The opening scene in this well-constructed and bold French film shows the wild and irrepressible spirit of 15-year-old Gwen (Isild Le Besco) romping around in the schoolyard on the last day of school before summer. She lives on the Brittany coast with her easy-going mother (Pascale Bussieres) and her father Alain (Pascal Elso), a fisherman. Gwen’s parents don’t have a clue about what to do about their adolescent daughter’s blooming sexual attractiveness.
In secret, Gwen is having sex with Fredo (Julien Cottereau). However, when her father’s boat breaks down and he rents the family’s driveway to some vacationers, her mother gets upset. Gwen flees this family feud and spends the night with two boys she meets on the beach.
Meanwhile, her best friend Lise (Karen Alyx) is experiencing difficulties in her home. News of her father’s death in a car accident in England leaves her mother bereft. Lise, who never knew him, struggles with mixed feelings, especially during her birthday party. Unable to handle all the tension emanating from her mother, Lise flees to Brittany.
At first, Gwen is happy to see Lise who has spent every summer with her. But she wants to continue her sexual adventures as well. Soon Lise feels estranged from her friend, an alienation that is heightened when Gwen brings Fredo home to the bed the two girls have been sharing. Her surprising response throws a shadow on the girls’ relationship and eventually leads her to a strange encounter with Gwen’s besieged father.
Anne-Sophie Birot directs this adolescent drama with just the right mix of spunk and sauciness. She draws out a striking performance from Isild Le Besco, whose unbridled sexual élan serves as a catalyst for tremors in her friendship with Lise and in her own family.