The strong bond between two young boys is tested in Dhont’s nuanced if straightforward sophomore feature about the nature of guilt and responsibility, boasting naturally affecting performances.
Dir. Lukas Dhont
2022 | Belgium | Drama | 104 min | 1.66:1 | French, Flemish & Dutch
PG13 (passed clean) for thematic material involving suicide and brief strong language
Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Emilie Dequenne
Plot: Thirteen-year-olds Léo and Rémi are inseparable; they spend every waking moment together, playing in the flower fields and sleeping at each other’s houses. However as they start a new school year, the pressures of early adolescence challenge their bond with unexpected and far-reaching consequences.
Awards: Won Grand Jury Prize & Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes); Nom. for Best International Feature (Oscars)
International Sales: The Match Factory (SG: Anticipate Pictures)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Friendship Between Boys; Guilt & Responsibility
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Viewed: The Projector Golden Mile
With Girl (2018) launching his feature filmmaking career in the best possible way with a Camera d’Or win at Cannes, Lukas Dhont is no doubt one of the emerging young directors from Europe.
His sophomore feature, Close, won the Grand Jury Prize at the same festival, and will surely raise his profile even further. These two films show Dhont’s filmmaking consistency and also his quiet empathy towards characters that he has lovingly written to life.
In Close, the focus is on the strong bond between two young boys, whose friendship is put to an unexpected test. Leo, as played by the outstanding Eden Dambrine in his acting debut, is inseparable from Remi, so much so that they get teased in school for being a ‘couple’.
While Dhont’s exploration of gender and sexuality in Girl was more pronounced, Close sees him treating these themes with more implicit undertones.
“A broken arm does hurt, right?”
Boys will always be boys, as the common saying goes; but Dhont doesn’t play to stereotypes or conventions, fashioning a work that gives us an opportunity to see Leo and Remi as human beings trying to ascribe meaning to their relationship as they navigate their growing-up years together.
What stops Close from being truly great is its straightforward narrative—I found the performances more compelling than the story, even though it explores the nature of guilt and responsibility from the perspective of a young soul, which is not exactly common.
Highly reliant on its performances, which are affecting due to the naturalism of the acting all-round, Dhont’s film revels in the unsaid and the sometimes stolen glances the characters give each other.