Clara cet été là
Clara cet été là
Directed: Patrick Grandperret
Genre: Coming of Age, Romance
Clara and her best friend Zoé head to summer camp for a summer of adventure and self-discovery. Both virgins, Zoé views camp as her chance to loose her virginity. After becoming romantically involved with Sébastien, a fellow camp member, Zoé learns that Sébastien cares far more about his friends then her and has sex with her just to impress them. After discovering this unsettling fact, Zoé turns to Clara for moral support and then in a moment of confusion, professes her love for her. Clara, in the midst of recognizing her own sexuality, rejects Zoé's romantic advance but soon regrets the spurn, and begins to become attracted to the beautiful and weird Sonia.
Movie ReviewsReview of Clara's Summer
by Malinda Lo, June 2004
For Americans, summer camp is associated with a host of fantasies: illicit encounters with boys (or girls) at midnight, ghost stories told around bonfires, cute camp counselors to giggle over at night. It seems that the French have many of the same fantasies, although the summer camp in Clara’s Summer (2001, France) centers on water sports such as windsurfing and sailing rather than hiking through the woods or kayaking.
Clara (Selma Brook) and her best friend Zoe (Stephanie Sokolinski) arrive at summer camp with one main goal: to finally have sex. It seems that everyone at the camp is obsessed with sex, not surprising since they are all teenagers on vacation away from their parents. The boys bring a video camera in order to tape the girls showering through a window on the roof, and the girls themselves are not resistant to letting the boys see a little (or a lot) of skin.But after Zoe suffers one too many public humiliations from Sebastien, the boy she likes, she turns to Clara in their dorm room and declares that she is in love with her. Stunned, Clara rejects Zoe’s advances and insists that they are just friends—Zoe is confusing things. Hurt and angered by Clara’s rejection, Zoe returns to Sebastien and they begin a summer romance. Meanwhile, Clara—who is miserable without Zoe’s constant companionship—befriends the beautiful and sophisticated Sonia (Salome Stevenin), only to quickly discover that their new friendship has consequences.
It seems that everyone knows that Sonia is a lesbian, and now that Clara is spending time with her, everyone thinks that Clara is a lesbian, too.
Even though the boys all agree that Sonia is beautiful and they would love to see her in bed with another girl, they tease her cruelly, going so far as to physically force her up onto the roof of the girls’ shower in a vicious approximation of their own voyeurism. Confronted with this behavior, Clara is understandably unwilling to admit her growing feelings for Sonia, and in an attempt to prove to herself that she is not a lesbian, she has sex with one of the camp counselors.
However, this experience is not at all enjoyable, and in one of the most moving scenes of the film, Clara stands in the shower alone after having sex for the first time, imagining that she can see one of the boys watching her and laughing. It is only a matter of time before Clara gives into her feelings for Sonia, who has already admitted to Clara that she likes both boys and girls.
Directed by Patrick Grandperret from a script by Nathalie Stragier, Clara’s Summer deals with the familiar coming-out story in an unexpected way. When Clara and Zoe eventually reconcile, Clara claims that she was not in love with either the camp counselor or Sonia—even though she slept with both of them. While it seems relatively normal for a teenage girl to sleep with a boy without being in love with him, most coming-out stories insist on love being a motivating factor for sex. Clara’s declaration that she is not in love with Sonia makes the film unexpectedly change course. Instead of a story of young love at an idyllic summer camp, we have a story of young lust at summer camp, which is just not as compelling.
It’s not that lust between teenagers is an invalid or unimportant story, but Clara’s Summer is situated from the beginning as a story about a momentous summer in the life of one girl. The experiences she goes through are certainly life-changing, but the conclusion of the film seems to fizzle out, as if it suddenly ran out of steam. It is as if the filmmakers realized they did not have the energy needed to delve into the complex emotions resulting from Clara’s first lesbian experience, so they decided to downgrade its importance.
On the other hand, the performances by Selma Brook as Clara, Salome Stevenin as Sonia, and Stephanie Sokolinski as Zoe are very well done. All three girls perfectly capture the confusion and desire of teenage hormones, and Brook does an excellent job portraying Clara’s discomfort with lesbianism and fascination with Sonia. Although the film is slow at times and lingers a bit too long on the antics of some of the boys, it provides an interesting window onto the lives of some French teenagers, and it is worth seeing simply for the performances of the young actresses in the film.