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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Lukas Dhont’s second feature, Close, won the Grand Prix at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival and the $60,000 Sydney Film Prize at the Sydney Film Festival in the same year, and is Belgium’s official entry for Best International Film in the forthcoming Oscars, so it comes with a big reputation. Like the recent The Banshees of Inisherin, the story tells of a close friendship and the tragic events that ensue when that friendship is suddenly and inexplicably withdrawn, only in this film the two pals are 13-year-old boys, not adults. In Close, Dhont and his co-writer Angelo Tijssens show us how the innocent, platonic love between these best mates is destroyed by society’s prejudices. Their outstanding script was inspired by the work of US psychologist Niobe Way's major study of intimacy among teenage boys, Deep Secrets: Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection.
Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are constant companions, spending both their waking and sleeping hours together. Léo’s family are hard-working flower farmers on a property in the Belgium countryside and, during the summer holidays, Léo spends more time at Rémi’s place. When the holidays are over and they start high school, their relationship triggers conjecture among the other school students, some of whom suggest they must be gay. Rémi doesn’t pay much attention to this gossip but it makes an impression on Léo, who begins to distance himself from his best mate.
Close is a stunning cinematic experience and the Belgian countryside setting is gloriously captured by Frank van den Eeden’s lush cinematography. One scene in particular takes one’s breath away; the camera’s tight focussing on Léo and Rémi as they race happily through a flower field, beautifully convey the carefree joy of childhood. The tragedy lies in the fact that others, incapable of experiencing or understanding such a close relationship, will inflict their insecurities on such an untroubled, loving friendship. It is heart-breaking to watch this beautiful companionship dissolve and the heartbreaking actions that follow.