Lukas Dhont, Belgium, France, Netherlands 2022
CLOSE is Lukas Dhont’s coming of age film about the changing friendship between two adolescent boys, Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav DeWaele). In the beginning stages of the film which take place in an idyllic rural community in Belgium during the summer vacation, Leo and Remi are longtime best of friends and do everything together. Whether romping through the fields of flowers, racing on their bikes or running at the seaside, they are happy and carefree. Then fall comes and they start secondary school with new classmates and new challenges. Some students begin to bully them and make comments about them being “together.” Leo denies it vehemently and the unpretentious friendship between the two begins to fall apart. Leo distances himself more and more from Remi. He joins the “in group” on the playground and even starts training with the hockey team, a very pronounced male sport. Leo’s sudden change of heart takes its toll on Remi, as the film marches on to a tragic and very emotional climax.
The most outstanding component in CLOSE was, in my opinion, superb acting on the part of Eden Dambrine. That a 13-year-old boy could express so much joy, pain, or loss just with his eyes, sometimes even without uttering a word, was remarkable. Also, the support rolls of Gustav DeWaele as the talented but very sensitive Remi, Léa Drucker as Leo’s caring mother and Émilie Dequenne as Remi’s suffering but understanding mother deserve commendable mention. I also admired Dhont’s ability to successfully lead us through so many different emotional stages, such as when we experience the joy of a childhood friendship and then the pain of its disintegration, or Leo’s nagging guilt and of course the pain of loss, each character having to deal with it individually.