Director: Eva Husson
Cast: Finnegan Oldfield, Marilyn Lima, Lorenzo Lefèbvre , Daisy Broom, Fred Hotier, Manuel Husson
Watch Bang Gang online in the UK: Curzon Home Cinema / BFI Player / TalkTalK TV Store / Rakuten TV / Google Play
This stylish debut from French writer-director Eva Husson is clearly inspired by the work of Larry Clark (Kids, Ken Park) and Gus Van Sant in its depiction of steamy, teenage adolescence spiralling out of control. However, it more closely resembles an episode of E4’s Skins – it may be all devil-may-care nihilism on the surface, but there’s a curious conservatism at the heart of it all, in much the same way that show’s often provocative content was ultimately limited by the boundaries of TV broadcasting rules.
Set in the French resort town of Biarritz during a heatwave, the film stars Daisy Broom and Marilyn Lima as best friends Laetitia and George, whose sex-obsessed friend Alex (Finnegan Oldfield) throws regular parties while his mother is away in Morocco for six months. After sleeping with and then being rejected by Alex (who then turns his attentions to Laetitia), a vengeful George turns a routine game of Truth or Dare into something more explicit – inspired by the porn films that Alex constantly projects onto the walls – and soon the regular parties become full-on teenage orgies, with the participants nick-naming themselves the Bang Gang (amusingly pronounced ‘Bong Gong’ throughout).
Broom and Lima deliver engaging performances and the film is at its strongest when it’s depicting their friendship, with its attendant unspoken jealousies. The problem is that the film lacks a clear focus, so we’re never quite sure whose story it is – initially, it seems like Laetitia’s, then George’s, but the voice-over narration belongs to Alex, who, if anything, is the character to suffer the least consequences from their actions. The film also flirts with, but fails to adequately explore, another form of teenage hedonism, with the character of Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefebvre), who likes to attend violent moshing parties in his friends’ garages.
On a similar note, the script fails to convince when it comes to the orgies evolving from a one-off, drug-fuelled game of Truth or Dare into a regular thing, particularly in the age of the smartphone, when the slightest indiscretion could end up on the internet (to be fair, that’s exactly what happens – the only surprise is that it doesn’t happen sooner). Indeed, if Husson is trying to say something meaningful about modern teenage ennui, then that message is largely lost – just as the film’s disappointingly conservative ending adopts an uncomfortably moralistic stance that seems at odds with the film’s original intentions.
Husson creates a hazy, dream-like atmosphere for the film (you can practically smell the marijuana smoke) and has a strong eye for an effective sequence (one moment sees the camera follow Alex through the party and into the pool), while also putting the film’s soundtrack to great use. However, the sex scenes themselves are remarkably tame (particularly compared to Larry Clark’s work) – it’s all artfully shot bare bottoms and breasts rather than actual genitalia and certainly nothing that would give the BBFC a headache (the 18 certificate is probably more down to the drug use).
The performances and direction ensure that Bang Gang is never less than watchable, but the nagging lack of substance eventually becomes frustrating.