TW: sexual assault
Coming of age and first love are done often, and often not done all that well. Philippe Lesage has done an excellent job at portraying these themes in Genèse.
Genèse is a story in three parts, the first two intertwined. Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin) and Charlotte (Noé Abita) are half siblings. Guillaume is a student at a boys’ boarding school. He’s a prankster and is well-liked by his classmates, but his only real friend is Nicolas. Nicolas is sporty and Guillaume has fallen in love for the first time.
Meanwhile, Charlotte is at college. She has a close group of friends and they love to party. She is deep into her first serious relationship when Maxime, her boyfriend, with all the awkwardness and tact of teenage boys, suggests that maybe they won’t be together forever, maybe they should open up their relationship. Charlotte loses interest quickly in Maxime, instead falling for Théo, an older man.
The film follows these two, until the last 15 minutes. The scene shifts to a summer camp, with the campers singing the same song that Guillaume does in the opening scene of the film. Here we meet Béatrice (Emilie Bierre) and Félix (Edouard Tremblay-Grenier). Much shorter, this story doesn’t delve as deep as the first two, but it follows all the tension of a first crush and comes to a bitter sweet end.
While even Guillaume and Charlotte’s stories do not cross over often, their themes do. Unrequited love, friendship, and navigating teenage relationships are all honest and raw in their portrayal. I particularly love the way that Lesage has portrayed the friendships. Teenagers have such a close and intimate bond unlike friendship at any other time in your life. Guillaume and his classmates joke around in a way that I have seen mirrored. Charlotte and her gang remind me of myself and my friends at that age. Béatrice and Félix have all of the awkwardness that any first crush has, it is so sweet to watch.
The production and cinematography really aids in this rawness. It feels realistic, it’s not overproduced. There are some beautiful scenes: Guillaume weaving through a crowd of dancing heterosexual couples, then hugging Nicolas for a little bit too long; Charlotte and Guillaume lying in bed, Béatrice and Félix hugging goodbye amongst a crowd of campers.
While the film is long and slow to progress, I keep expecting myself to feel bored, but I never do. I am hooked until the end. However, the end is soured for me with a rape scene that comes out of nowhere. It is abrupt, shocking me without warning. The scene adds nothing to the story and what’s more is never addressed. This is really disappointing.
Despite this, I still give Genése 4 out of 5 stars. It’s truthful and real and a joy (mostly) to watch.