French cinema is quite interesting, especially films made for TV. While the storylines sometimes feel a bit melodramatic, like a soap opera, french films also have a deeper philosophical depth that is quite refreshing. “You’ll Get Over It (À Cause d’un Garçon)” is a prime example of this cinematic style, part of the TV film series: Carnets d’ado. With a realistic script, director Fabrice Cazeneuve & writer Vincent Molina brought a sensitive subject to French primetime TV. To add to this achievement, the film premiered back in 2002 – when queer storylines were shied away from in mainstream cinema! It does have a few issues, however, so let’s dive in a bit more.
Synopsis of “You’ll Get Over It (À Cause d’un Garçon)”
Vincent (Julien Baumgartner) is a typical high school guy. A star on the school’s swim team, liked by his classmates, a family who is proud of him; he has everything he could want. All of this is showcased at a school swim meet where he helps win a relay race that makes his father proud. Even in the showers after the meet, the boys laugh and banter with each other; feeling like a team. But Vincent has a secret – he’s gay! After the swim meet, Vincent sneaks over to Bruno’s house (Nils Öhlund). But after the steamy session, a fight ensues because Vincent is too far in the closet to even enjoy a night out in the Marais district. Things at home are a bit awkward as well as his older brother, Régis (Antoine Michel), is unemployed and an embarrassment to their father (Patrick Bonnel) – especially compared to the prodigal son, Vincent.
At school the next day, Vincent meets up with his good friends Noémie (Julia Maraval) and Stéphane (François Comar). They have a unique relationship and are close friends. But it’s awkward because while Noémie and Vincent are dating, Stéphane also longing for Noémie. Suddenly a new student walks past and catches Vincent’s eye. While walking home after school, Vincent runs into the mysterious new boy, Benjamin (Jérémie Elkaïm). They flirt back and forth a bit – something is stirring! The following weekend with Stéphane’s parents away, the three friends throw a party. However, things shake up after Stéphane passes out drunk: Noémie and Vincent sleep together! Except it’s a bit awkward and not quite the romantic ordeal neither imagined. In fact, at school later in the week, Noémie confronts Vincent about being a bit aloof since the weekend. She then draws attention to Vincent’s budding friendship with “troublemaker” Benjamin.
After a quick stop at the boxing gym to try and catch up with his brother, Vincent runs into Benjamin when he gets home. After inviting Benjamin up to his room, the tension between the two boys finally erupts as Vincent leans in to kiss Benjamin. But surprisingly, Benjamin pulls away saying he can’t give Vincent what he wants and leaves. To make things worse, a group of guys confront Benjamin, after realising that the “queer” troublemaker was hanging out with their buddy, Vincent. Unfortunately the real trouble is only beginning: as Vincent walks into school the following morning, everyone is pointing and laughing. Someone wrote “Molena is a fag” on the school window. Terrified and suddenly outted, Vincent bolts. After swimming alone before classes, Stéphane finally catches up with him. Vincent finally admits the truth, he’s gay. But Stéphane simply tells Vincent that he wouldn’t have run away; that they’re still pals.
Back in class, the same message is written on the blackboard. Vincent runs out again and Noémie follows him, while the French professor (Eric Bonicatto) chides them all. On his way out of the school, Benjamin tries to talk to Vincent and apologise, but Vincent is pissed off and wants nothing to do with him. Down at the dock, Noémie finally catches up with Vincent. He finally tells her that it’s true, but she turns on him. “Why didn’t you tell me before we slept together”, she throws at him. Vincent hugs her, but it doesn’t resolve anything. All of the worry and stress causes Vincent to physically get sick. While his mother tries to console and take care of him, Vincent’s brother slips in and mocks his gay brother. Vincent stays home sick the following day, but a visit to the doctor doesn’t reveal anything wrong. Meanwhile at school, Noémie confronts Benjamin for ruining Vincent’s life by outing him. Later, she and Stéphane bond as they discuss Vincent and the fact that she slept with Vincent even though she suspected something. Finally returning to swim practice, Vincent finds himself not only ostracised but even attacked mid practice; the coach does nothing.
At home that night, Vincent’s brother finally outs him while trying to get back in favour with their father. Vincent finally admits he’s gay to his parents, before running to his room. While cleaning the dishes, his parents talk about this new revelation. His father mentions that maybe it’s a phase, adding that he’s glad it doesn’t show. However, Vincent’s mother tells him that he’s still their son. Meanwhile at school, the teachers approach their fellow French professor to talk to Vincent, implying that the professor can personally relate to Vincent’s issues; but he refuses. Thankfully one person won’t let Vincent just throw it all away. The swim coach (Bernard Blancan) encourages Vincent to push back, show them you’re strong. “You have to show them you might like boys, but you’re not about to open a flower shop!” Interestingly, Vincent’s father also agrees to help his son train for upcoming championships. However, their first training at the pool turns a bit disastrous.
Life continues as everyone struggles to find their new place. Noémie and Stéphane bond even closer and finally have sex, but it’s not great. Vincent struggles with his own identity, still having feelings for Noémie but then turns around and goes out with Bruno to the gay clubs in the Marais. Unfortunately that night out goes bad and Vincent runs back to his comfort zone with Noémie. But she continues to give him a cold shoulder; she doesn’t know what to do or how she feels about everything. She needs time apart for now. Thankfully things gradually start to improve. Vincent’s swim coach has booked a private lane to keep practicing for championships. Benjamin talks more with Noémie and admits that he messed up, while explaining that at his old school he had an unhealthy relationship and thus freaked when Vincent kissed him. Even Vincent’s French professor finally talks to him, admitting that he is also gay and that it does get better. Vincent has a chuckle and honestly didn’t even realise, but with a smile he agrees to keep it a secret.
More importantly, Vincent’s father picks him up from school on the way to a dinner with his mother. On the drive over, his dad admits that it’s not easy to accept everything, but he’s trying; “I wanted to tell my son that I love him.” When his mother joins them, they talk more about what being gay means to Vincent. Though when his mom asks if he’s seeing anyone, Vincent remarks that there’s no need to go into the details! A few weeks later, the swim team is on their way to championships. There’s still some alienation towards Vincent by the other teammates, but the Coach keeps them in check. When they win the relay race with Vincent’s help, they finally offer him a hand out of the pool. Stéphane hugs Vincent along with the coach and his father, and even Benjamin is in the crowd watching. Everything is better at last, as Benjamin and Vincent play around in the park afterwards before finally sharing a romantic kiss.
For as much as I love the depth to the storyline, “You’ll Get Over It (À Cause d’un Garçon)” has a couple weak areas. Something that seems to be popping up in the films I’ve reviewed of late is shaky camera work; unfortunately this queer film suffers from the same flaw. It’s as if they want to make a statement with the a personal, raw emotion of the camera lens. Unfortunately, it’s distracting to the viewer and stands out. The rest of the cinematographic elements didn’t stand out as jarring – but they equally did not stand out. I felt like I was watching a made-for-TV film. It’s not a bad thing per se, but a bit more focus would’ve tipped the scales and made the elements pop. (Along with getting a steady cam for handheld work!)
The other issue I had with this queer film is that the scenes jumped back and forth. Reading through my notes was almost as jarring as watching the film. It actually felt like there scenes were spliced in two, to insert something occurring at the same time but elsewhere. The trouble with this editing style is that while it can help create tension to return to, it is jarring to follow. Making the disjointed feeling worse are choppy transitions. I felt like there was no overarching flow to this film, however given that it was a TV movie, perhaps they had to plan for commercial breaks?
But back to the great bits to this queer film: the plot and the incredible cast. First off, our two leads are gorgeous and youthful. Jérémie Elkaïm is alluring and even mysterious as the dark & unknown new student, Benjamin. While Julien Baumgartner looks great (don’t skip past the sex scenes or the full frontal shot of him naked!), there are some great moments where we can visually see Vincent’s internal struggles. They aren’t on screen together for long, but the arc between the two is believable and alluring; we are glad they end up together in the end. Equally I was impressed with Julia Maraval as Noémie. She had a difficult role to fill, trying to support her best friend yet conflicted because she’s in love with a man who doesn’t love her (and who took her virginity). Everyone else fit their roles perfectly, creating a cohesive whole.
But the strongest element to “You’ll Get Over It” is the incredible script – wow! Typical for French films and storytelling, every character has a depth and internal arc to go through. We even have a bit of intelligence and philosophy woven into the script. The main storyline is about Vincent: a gay boy who is outed and struggles to find his own acceptance. But writer Vincent Molina doesn’t forget everyone else! I absolutely love Noémie’s character arc. Her struggle is almost a mirror of Vincent’s, but from the opposite vantage. She’s a straight woman who loves a guy who comes out as gay – AFTER they had sex. She’s caught between accepting Vincent for who he is as her friend, but is equally torn because he legit hurt her; nor is she afraid to tell him exactly what she feels. In the end she accepts Vincent, but her struggle is important for people to watch. They can relate because accepting people when they come out isn’t always easy right away.
Connecting into that same mindset, I loved Vincent’s parent’s characterisation. Sure, they were shocked when Vincent’s brother outs him. They make remarks that many of us have been told before: it’s a phase, no one will notice, etc. However, they work towards acceptance. I absolutely love the scene between Vincent and his parents – I teared up when his dad verbally said “I love my son.” By the end they haven’t fully embraced with everything new about Vincent, but they’re headed in the right direction. With others gradually sort through their issues about Vincent’s new gay status and end up accepting him, Vincent’s friends and parents are the most important arcs. It all is wrapped up simply and realistically. I love it!
Some of my favourite LGBT & Queer films are actually French. There is an honesty and in-depth realism to the storylines that I absolutely love. While many of the actors are not well known to an international audience, I strongly feel that French queer films need to be better known. “You’ll Get Over It (À Cause d’un Garçon) might have a couple weaker areas, but it’s an excellent film that shows the full range & effects of being outed. No stone is left unturned as they dig through the various stages and relationships of acceptance. Plus it ends on a positive note! I highly encourage you to watch “You’ll Get Over It (À Cause d’un Garçon)” – you’ll love it!