A Single Boy
From the first minutes of High school student, Christophe Honoré swears with the a priori serious and desperate tone of his pitch, in particular through the very slightly pink film photography, signed Rémy Chevrin. An image traversed by a few unreal hues which already suggest that the viewer is immersed in the dream/nightmare of Lucas, the protagonist.
A point of view quickly reinforced by the fragmented narration of the film, which is further embellished with interventions in front of the camera by Lucas who shares his flow of thoughts with the public. The structure of the screenplay marries the character’s story, evading certain passages to sometimes return to them later, or not at all. This unstable writing makes the film deeply organic and sensitivethe upset Psyche of Lucas truly contaminating the very architecture of the High school student.
Christophe Honoré then moves away from a classic form of storytelling to better paint his protagonist with accuracy. A sharpness that we find in the characterization of the secondary characters of the film and in the links which unite them, the scenario writer approaching without detour the reports/ratios love/fraternal hatred, protection/maternal freedom and tenderness/friendly distance. There is like a very strong concern for emotional realism in the films of Christophe Honoréthe humanity of its characters always manifesting itself simultaneously in the positive and in the negative.
This complexity of the writing is magnificently embodied by the cast of the film, as much by the fragility of Juliette Binoche as by the singular roughness of Vincent Lacoste. In addition, two actors particularly stand out, namely Erwan Kepoa Falé, with his warmth and endearing tenderness, and Paul Kircher, whose delicacy and candor shine through in every shot. The poetry and the strangeness of the duo of actors participate fully in the very particular color of the film, between lightness and brutality, mannerism and realism.
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
This double movement is found, moreover, in the very staging of the film since, in addition to the usual aestheticization of Christophe Honoré’s cinema (colored lights, slow motion, interventions in front of the camera, stylized dialogues), The high school student is crossed by much more concrete and refined sequences (portable/fixed camera, more summary composition). In a few moments of joy and/or sadness, the filmmaker manages to capture small gestures and moments of grace without detour or varnish of stylewhich gives even more breadth to the emotion of the film.
The director rarely falls into a pose, and listens as much as possible to the needs of his characters in order to find an almost musical coherence in the drawing of their affects. This flexibility of staging allows Christophe Honoré to approach the mourning of Lucas without the style ever creating a distance with the spectator, and also without the more raw moments being parasitized by pathos and/or complacency.
The high school student measures its effects, and thus manages to maintain the viewer’s attachment to a grief-stricken character who succumbs to unkind choices and decisions. This is particularly the case during a whole part of the film where Lucas decides to cut off all communication with those around him, abandoning himself completely to loneliness and pain. But the director never judges Lucas. He bears witness to his ill-being and espouses his contradictions in order to make its evolution all the more beautiful and touching.
Alas, this difficult balance of High school student between aesthetic and organic sometimes crumbles, especially during a central Parisian part which stretches its stakes a little or during some slightly more superficial sequences during the segment taking place in a psychiatric hospital. Christophe Honoré succumbs to the show of force in a handful of scenesthus stifling the viewer’s emotion.
“Never cast your eyes down the abyss”
The Rule of I
But even with these few missteps, The high school student testifies to an overflowing fever and sensitivity, no doubt partly due to the autobiographical nature of the story. Fortunately, it is not mandatory to know that the filmmaker lost his father at the same age as the protagonist to be taken on by The high school student. Nevertheless, this passive seems to infect the film with a touching sincerity and urgency.
Testifies to this the presence of Christophe Honoré himself in the casting of the film, in the role of the father. A choice that is not anecdotal, especially since the inequality of his acting reveals an authenticity that goes far beyond the simple wink or reference. A bittersweet idea that also covers the film with a nice meta layer by questioning the future of the children/characters when their father/director, the pillar of this family/team, disappears.
A pretty image which makes the protagonists of the film lonely beings, without goals, who wander while waiting to rediscover the taste for love and life. The character of Lucas is the best example of this, grief transforming him into an individual who no longer knows what to do with his body (to speak? Not to speak? To make love? with whom?). This emotional wandering of the characters take The high school student far beyond self-centered self-fictionbut well on the side of the sensitive and overwhelming drama on the temptation of the abyss and abandonment.
It is only in his epilogue that Lucas (and the film) truly opens up to others, notably in a final bifurcation towards the point of view of his mother, played by Juliette Binoche. A touching break that gives way to a soft, delicate and resilient conclusion which reminds us that if hell is other people, we would still feel very alone in paradise.