Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps), a regular at a gay cruising site in France, falls for a dangerous and mysterious man (Christophe Paou) he encounters by the lakeside.
Set entirely on a lakeside beach and the surrounding woods, The Stranger by the Lake is an intriguing look at the world of depersonalised sexual encounters. The anonymity sought by the beach’s regulars has a chilling effect when there is evidence of a threat in their midst, leaving them detached from each other and the peril of their situation.
The most personal (and believable) relationship in the film is that between Franck and Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao), a middle aged man who is unique in going to the lake for conversation rather than coitus. The two freely admit they have no physical attraction to one another, yet find the most sincere bond in the film, suggesting the quick gratification sought by others at the beach may not be truly fulfilling.
Less sanitised in its sexual content than many more mainstream gay films, this feels more like an insider’s look at gay culture. It is, of course, a completely different kind of film than, say, Brokeback Mountain or Carol, which are both about an intense romance. This isn’t a traditional love story in any sense, and it is that which makes it unique.