Childhood friendships are beautiful. They’re sweet and innocent and most times, we wish they’ll last forever. Lukas Dhont’s Close is similar in that way.
Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele) are best friends who play pretend as soldiers in a war, run through fields of flowers, ride bicycles and are happy in each other’s company. To say they’re inseparable would be an understatement as Leo frequently sleeps over at Remi’s, limbs tangled together, and blows air in Remi’s face each time he struggles to fall asleep. Leo has also grown a close relationship with Remi’s mother (Emilie Dequenne) too, who takes him in as a son of her own.
Their friendship is intense but no matter how much affection and emotional intimacy the two 13-year-old boys share together, their bliss does not last. The two start school together and on the first day, are questioned by a posse of girls if they’re together. When the other boys in class see Leo rest his head on Remi’s shoulder, Leo finds himself at the end of homophobic slurs. Remi seems unbothered by the comments, but Leo takes it upon himself to conform and be accepted – pushing Remi away in the process.
This is where the heartbreak starts. The boys, in their early adolescence years, face new feelings and social pressures. The scrutiny and atmosphere of casual homophobia, as well as the subtle and crude enforcements of gender norms and expectations get to them and affect their friendship and right in the middle of the movie – as if it wasn’t painful enough – affect Remi in a devastating manner.
After a major tragedy occurs, the movie shifts from the pains of a friendship breakup to grief. At this point, there’s no need to dab your tears with tissue anymore as the tears will just keep on rolling. Grief hits our characters in waves (as it usually does in real life), but Leo struggles with it the most. He struggles to understand, process and communicate the tornado of emotions he feels inside.
There’s no denying that Close is an exploration of adolescent male friendships and how gender norms come to affect boys at that age who are going through mental, emotional and physical changes, all while learning what society deems as masculine. Remi is musically talented and Leo would attend his concerts, but when Leo picks up iced hockey (an activity that is regarded masculine in relation to music), he gets mad when Remi shows up and supports him on the sidelines in a way girlfriends are often expected to do so.
Dambrine is an absolute star as Leo. He communicates Leo’s slurry of emotions and thoughts with long gazes, stares, quiet moments and unspoken words. His performance relies mainly on his facial expressions (or lack thereof during the darkest of times) that a script is almost unnecessary. Dequenne as Remi’s mother is equally impressive, though she only shone towards the end of the movie.
Dhont, an openly gay director, clearly has a real feel of close same-sex friendships. Are Leo and Remi both gay? Maybe one of them is gay? Maybe none of them is gay at all! Though there aren’t any sexual or romantic content – need we remind you that these are minors after all – the friendship between Leo and Remi is something most queer people may be able to empathise with. And perhaps, one that everyone regardless of their sexuality may have gone through once in their life. Friendship breakups are hard, no matter which way you swing.
A devastating film, Close is still enjoyable to watch with complex yet easy-to-love characters and beautiful cinematography. Personally, we enjoy how Dhont uses the seasons and agriculture to signify how much time has passed. The lifecycle of the flowers we first meet at the start of the film, bloom, wilt, replant and grow again in accordance with the story too, almost mimicking Leo’s emotional health and changes throughout this entire journey too. Dhont handles difficult topics delicately, but no matter how much he tries, you’ll still leave the cinema after a cry or two.
Close opens in cinemas on 16 February 2023.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Lukas Dhont’s Close is a devastating and unbearably sad film on friendship between two adolescent boys.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 8/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10