Summer time. A cruising spot for gay men seeking nameless sexual encounters, is tucked away on the shores of a picturesque secluded lake in rural France. Franck is an attractive young male who falls in love with Michel, a striking, extremely potent but lethally dangerous man. Franck has witnessed this first hand, but his desire for Michel knows no bounds, this is a relationship he must have - at any cost.
When I saw the trailer for Stranger by the Lake it portrayed itself as this dark, vivid and bright thriller, a film that looks inside the darkness that consumes some of us and the fact that some people out their are drawn to it in an unexplainable way. What the film is however is a sensationalised story of murder and homoerotica that doesn’t so much tell a story as it does fit a story around a series of graphic sex scenes.
Stranger by the Lake follows Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) as he inexplicably meets Michel (Christophe Paou) on a beach in the middle of summer. The beach in question is a hotspot for men to meet other men and thus begins a relationship that is both wonderful and dangerous at the same time with Franck stuck in the middle of the two sides of Michel’s personality wondering which one is going to win out, the gentleman or the menace.
While the visuals are lush and vibrant with bright colours, interesting cinematography and an enviable eye for detail the film lacks a personal touch. The characters are so consumed by their own private dramas that they rarely act like real people with Michel at times being on the fence between believable and cartoonish. His monstrous side is something to fear but it rarely seems like Michel, instead like a completely different character entirely.
This sense of two sides to everything percolates through the film and its not long until you are wondering what Franck has in his closet but the film fails to use the films many unique selling points and have turned a dark tale into something sordid when it didn’t need to be, In the end of it all this is a film that plays to the arthouse crowd and isnt afraid of that fact but it does mean that what you will find here is not quite what you want or expect.