February 14, 2022
The Women and their sexuality are arguably glamorised and male-gazed but strong acting means the film makes an impact
That Kind of Summer review – affecting story of sex workers in therapy
Berlin juries have an interest in the confrontational and the transgressive: my guess is that this film in competition from Canadian director Denis Côté may well win the big prize. I am still not entirely sure how to view its exploitative aesthetic. But it’s undoubtedly true that the characters and performances grow and develop, unexpectedly, into something poignant and even rather melancholy by the end.
The setting is a therapeutic summer residency in a country house near a lake for young women who have issues with hypersexuality and sex addiction. They must surrender their phones (except for certain permitted breaks) and live together as a group with their mentors, with one weekend pass for the entire time; there are also activities and discussion groups. Geisha (Aude Mathieu) is a sex worker with piercings and a shaved head, and an aggressively slouching, jeering attitude; Léonie (Larissa Corriveau) was abused by her father as a child and now wishes to be humiliated and abused during group sex, often with strangers. Eugénie (Laure Giappiconi) has similar attitudes, together with drug abuse. The group is being guided by the cool, mature detached Sami (Samir Guesmi), whom Geisha naturally tries to seduce – claiming that she’s offering him a freebie, despite getting €300 a time in the sex marketplace – and to provoke him with racist remarks. Sami’s colleague is the German Octavia (Anne Ratte-Polle), who has a troubled personal life and a tense, competitive professional relationship with the founder of this course: this is pregnant Mathilde (Marie-Claude Guérin) who is ceding responsibility to Octavia and taking this summer off for maternity leave.
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