Streaming on MUBI India, Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont’s Oscar-nominated film, Close, takes a deeper look at the delicate emotions of boyhood intimacy
Last Updated: 02.47 AM, Apr 28, 2023
STORY: Fooling around amid daffodils and tulips, two young boys enjoy friendship and human bonding, until inquisitive schoolmates wreck their innocence and emotions.
REVIEW: The first thing that you’ll notice about Belgian writer-director Lukas Dhont’s Oscar-nominated film Close, apart from the spectacular undulating flower fields, is the warmth of free and easy boyhood friendship. Newbies Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele play 13-year-olds Léo and Rémi, who share a bond that is intense, innocent and tactile. They spend most of their waking hours together. The two boys are also at ease with each other’s families. So, they often sleep over and even enjoy their meals together.
While Léo appears to be more outspoken and affable, he seems to be in awe of Rémi’s musical talent - his command over the oboe. The latter is otherwise a bit shy and reticent, but not bereft of the natural and unselfconscious love that binds the two together.
Everything sails smoothly until a new academic year kickstarts, and they both head to school together. Léo and Rémi are suddenly amid other teenagers, who are quick to point out the “intensity” of the bond they share and ask the two boys if they are even aware of it? This fills Léo’s mind with doubt, despair and anguish. In a bid to tackle the “humiliation” and change their image in front of their peers, he almost instantaneously feels the urge to dispel Rémi, both on campus and when they are napping at home in the same bed. Mind you, Rémi still hasn’t been able to comprehend why things are changing between them. In fact, he is baffled by his closest buddy’s strange and rather impulsive behaviour. Confused and in turmoil, Rémi tries to reason with Léo, only to be bemused even more by his reluctance to reconcile. Still not ready to acknowledge his fickle dishonesty, Léo instead takes up ice hockey to assert his machismo. Of course, the two friends are now more distant than ever.
The poignance and profundity of Close - also a Cannes prizewinner - set in slowly, but strikes back really hard. Is it a queer love story? We can’t tell you for sure. However, what the narrative celebrates is human bonding, the charms of boyhood and adolescent intimacy. But more than that, it teaches you the value of empathy and compassion, even when you have suffered a loss. In his subtle yet heartfelt style, Lukas - who is also known for his critically acclaimed 2018 film Girl - narrates a story of luminescent love, guilt and grief. As a supporting character, Léo’s older brother Charlie (Igor van Dessel) will also win your heart. However, what lingers on until long after you have watched the movie is Léo’s special affinity with Rémi’s mother Sophie (played by Émilie Dequenne), as the narrative also sheds light on the devastating impact of peer pressure on young minds.
VERDICT: A must-watch! Naivety and poignancy are the elements with which Lukas weaves a moving tale of boyhood friendship that evolve to teach you some valuable lessons in life. Eden and Émilie are the stars of the show, undoubtedly.