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film review

Gustav De Waele and Eden Dambrine in a scene from Close.Courtesy of A24 / Sphere


Directed by Lukas Dhont

Written by Lukas Dhont and Angelo Tijssens

Starring Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele and Émilie Dequenne

Classification N/A; 104 minutes

Opens in select theatres Feb. 3

Critic’s Pick

The opening scene of Lukas Dhont’s new drama, Close, is like an idyllic, sunlit nirvana, a picture of the perfect kind of summer that can really only exist for the young and the hopeful. This scene embodies the friendship between two 13-year-olds, Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele), whose tender relationship is of a kind we’re most used to seeing in films about young girls like Thirteen, Ghost World and The Virgin Suicides. But it’s clear from the beauty and rawness of Close that we’re long overdue for something exploring the closeness between young men.

The first half of the A24-produced Belgian film in French and Dutch follows these best friends with a kind of apprehensive intimacy, allowing us to glimpse the incredible beauty of the relationship that can only exist between two people that age. The fierceness, devotion and all-encompassing emotion is hard to capture, though Dhont and cinematographer Frank van den Eeden come very close.

Close is director Lukas Dhont's second film.Courtesy of A24 / Sphere

But as the boys start secondary school, things start to shift. Schoolmates start to notice just how close the two are, and the bond that connects them starts to rupture as they face homophobic bullying and harassment from their peers. Soon Leo joins the hockey team, becomes a bit more aloof and starts expanding his horizons past the vista of his and Remi’s relationship. But a heartbroken and frustrated Remi only sees Leo and longs to stay in the bubble of best friends as long as he can.

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After some tense moments – moments where I had to hold my breath because they brought back such intense pubescent memories – there are fights, confrontations and finally all-out screaming matches as the two come to grips over what it means to hold and love and be with someone so intimately in full view of the world, however small that world may be. It is devastating for anyone who can recall how much the pain of losing a friendship can feel at that age.

Dhont forces us to relive those moments as the two struggle to keep their friendship from evolving into something else, something far less loving and open than what it has been and could be. To see something so beautiful become so ugly causes a particular kind of emotional destruction, one Dhont excels at capturing.

The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best International Feature Film.Courtesy of A24 / Sphere

When something more dramatic comes to surface, Close becomes an examination of responsibility, of what we owe the ones we love and the emotional legacy of what we leave behind as we grow up.

This is only Dhont’s second film, his debut Girl about a transgender girl who wants to be a ballerina was little-seen but well-received and paved the way for this stunning follow-up, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best International Feature.

Fans of stunning cinematography, thoughtful writing and pure, unadulterated emotional torture will find Close to be worthy of the Oscar nod. The film certainly guarantees that its 31-year-old director will have a long-lasting career examining the heartbreak of finding and being your most authentic self.

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