By Matthew Moorcroft
- Directed by Lukas Dhont
- Starring Eden Dambrine, Gustav de Waele, Léa Drucker, Émilie Dequenne
In the back of my mind, I was dreading Close due to the name of Lukas Dhont attached to this. Back four years ago, he made a big splash at Cannes directing Girl, a movie about a young transgender girl going through ballet classes that, simply put, ignorant at best and downright offensive at it’s worst. Regardless of the filmmaking on display, Dhont clearly did not put his best foot forward there and left a sour taste in my mouth that couldn’t easily be rectified. And then when glowing praise for Close, his next picture, was coming out of Cannes and it ends up winning the Grand Jury, I began dreading yet another Dhont picture that appeals to straight cis people without taking into account the queer experience.
So it’s with a great relief that I must report that Close, while not perfect, is certainly a far better film then Girl ever was, and represents a big step forward for him in terms of representational quality. Close’s big focus lies in it’s central, possibly spoilerific conceit – two male best friends have a close, almost intimate relationship, but due to factors out of their control there is something pulling them apart. What happens throughout the rest of the film is a result of the world telling boys that it’s not ok for them to be close with people.
Patriarchy affects young boys just as much as it does young girls and women, specifically in how our society teaches boys from a young age that any sign of vulnerability is a sign of weakness. That cause he’s close with a boy, it must mean he’s gay. That because they are able to actually express themselves to each other, they are somehow lesser. These toxic beliefs are so prevalent it’s become a genuine issue over the years and it’s discussion has become more important. Close doesn’t necessarily add anything new to the conversation, but it does tell a compelling story from that angle.
It’s mainly in the 30 minutes that most of it’s major points are made as well, and it’s simply sublime. Dhont has a real eye for natural beauty, and keeping the focus on our young boys the entire time without losing sight of the world around them is no easy task but he manages to carry it easily. The film almost has the same style lens style throughout most of it, with the background constantly cloudied and muddy with only our leads in focus. And when the shoe drops, it’s a genuine gutpunch that comes out of nowhere but yet feels inevitable in the grand scheme of things.
Close never really reaches that emotional grandiose of it’s first 30 or so minutes again, but it never dips into bad territory either. I appreciate how small scale it turns out to be, ending up less as a examination of the patriarchy and homphobia as a whole and more of one boy dealing with grief. A scene in a car that lasts two minutes long but is punctuated by mostly silence is remarkably effective in it’s presentation, and it’s the only time the rest of the film ends up meeting the heights of that early portion. Eden Dambrine is responsible for a lot of this, giving one of the best child performances in recent memory and carrying the entire emotional backbone by himself.
And while ultimately Close left me a little colder then expected considering it’s hype, it’s still well crafted enough that it’s worth checking out and those first 30 minutes are sublime. It’s likely to win a bunch of awards and be a favourite of many going into International Feature for good reason, and while I can’t say it’s my pick, there are certainly worse options this year for a good cry.