Close – Film Review
by Frank L.
Directed by Lukas Dhont
Stars – Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Émilie Dequenne
The director of this piece, Lukas Dhont, is 31 years of age and from Ghent, in Belgium. In 2019, he directed “Girl” a brave insight into the myriad challenges a transsexual teenager faces, who wishes to become a ballerina. Here, the subject matter is far more commonplace. It is the intensity of a friendship between two thirteen-year-old boys Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav de Waele). They do everything together and are in and out of each other’s houses. The intensity of their relationships is further intensified by each boy’s relationship with the other’s mother. Leo is entranced by Remi’s mother Sophie (Emilie Dequenne) as is Remi with Nathalie (Lea Drucker), Leo’s mother. Both families are involved in the commercial production of flowers and all in the boys’ world seems to be rosy. There is not a cloud in sight. However, that happy state cannot continue. On entering a new school, a challenging question about their friendship is raised by a pupil which causes Leo to distance himself from Remi, gradually a chasm opens between them and the story takes on a very different tone.
The acting of Dambrine and de Waele is spellbinding and Dhont permits the audience to watch them as they run through magnificent blossoms in colourful fields, fool around making faces and at the end of the day, sleeping over in each other’s homes. It is a delight to behold their friendship. Similarly, Dequenne and Drucker when the friendship of their sons frays, their concerns are portrayed with painful intelligence. It is a quartet of subtle acting.
Visually the film is beautiful. The innocence of Leo and Remi and their sheer delight in each other’s company makes for a succession of joyous images, particularly as they chase each other through the acres of blossom. In contrast, when the tone of the film alters and all becomes fraught, Dhont makes scenes which are haunting.
This film investigates friendships between adolescent boys and how they alter. It leaves unspoken whether the friendship would have survived or even flourished if the challenging question had not been asked. It contemplates the fracturing of friendships in childhood and its consequences.
Dhont has created a film which is a visual pleasure. It is a film to ponder and bring to mind childhood friendships which were part of everyday existence but gradually have been forgotten. Some may be easily explained, whereas others are more complex. Dhont has tread intelligently into the world of young male friendships – a world rarely discussed. It has been deservedly nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category. It is a film that deserves to be seen in the cinema to properly indulge in this visual feast.
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