• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024
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“Close,” a 2022 coming-of-age drama directed by , reunites the creative duo of Dhont and Angelo Tijssens, known for their earlier collaboration on the acclaimed film “Girl” (2018). The cast features , , , and . The narrative unfolds around two teenage boys whose profound friendship faces upheaval when their intimacy becomes noticeable to their peers, triggering a rift between them.

The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 26, 2022, where it received critical acclaim and earned the prestigious Grand Prix. Specialized critics commended the performances of the cast. “Close” is a collaborative effort between Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. It saw its release in France on November 1, 2022, distributed by Diaphana Distribution, and in Benelux on November 2, distributed by Lumière.

The acclaim continued as “Close” received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards, announced on January 24, 2023. Additionally, it secured the André Cavens Award for Best Film from the Belgian Film Critics Association. At the 12th Magritte Awards, “Close” garnered an impressive ten nominations, with being recognized for Best Screenplay. Ultimately, the film became the most awarded of the ceremony, winning seven accolades. The recognition speaks to the film's impactful storytelling, performances, and the skillful direction of .

Story Line

In the rural setting of Belgium, the inseparable bond between two 13-year-old boys, Léo and Rémi, is characterized by a profound and intimate connection. Their close friendship is evident in their habit of sharing a bed in Rémi's bedroom, a practice wholeheartedly accepted by Rémi's parents, Sophie and Peter, who regard Léo as a second child. The backdrop of their lives includes agricultural work at a flower farm, where the two friends enjoy spending their time.

However, their world shifts when, at school, a trio of female classmates raises questions about the nature of Léo and Rémi's relationship. Faced with external judgment and homophobic slurs from other boys, Léo reacts by seeking new friendships and embracing activities like ice hockey, deliberately excluding Rémi. A pivotal moment occurs when Léo, during a sleepover at Rémi's, decides to sleep on a separate mattress, leading to a sudden and aggressive rift between them.

Léo's distancing intensifies, marked by his avoidance of sleepovers, engaging with different peers, and deepening involvement in ice hockey and farm work. Rémi attempts to bridge the gap but encounters resistance. The tension escalates, culminating in a physical altercation between the two friends.

Tragedy strikes when, after a school trip from which Rémi is absent, the class learns about Rémi's suicide. Léo, burdened by guilt, struggles to express his emotions during therapy sessions at school. The classmates' descriptions of Rémi as a happy and friendly boy prompt a defiant response from Léo, who attempts to mask his inner pain by immersing himself in activities like ice hockey and gardening.

Despite forming new connections, Léo realizes that none compare to the profound bond he shared with Rémi. Unable to articulate his grief to others, he finds solace in confiding in his older brother Charlie. The narrative captures the complex emotional journey of Léo as he grapples with loss, guilt, and the struggle to navigate a world forever altered by the absence of his closest friend.

Following Rémi's funeral, a weight of responsibility settles on Léo's shoulders. Knowing he must address his feelings with Sophie to preserve their connection, he grapples with anxiety over his impending confession. The opportunity arises when Sophie and Peter join Léo's family for dinner. Emotions run high as Peter breaks down while Charlie outlines his future plans, a poignant moment that underscores the mourning of the potential Rémi once held.

With the onset of summer vacation, Léo takes an unexpected visit to Sophie's workplace. During the drive home, he musters the courage to confess to Sophie, attributing himself to Rémi's tragic end. In this vulnerable moment, an initial tension gives way to a tender embrace as Sophie, understanding the depth of Léo's torment, offers comfort. Tears are shed together, forging a shared catharsis.

As time passes, Léo notices an emptiness in the once vibrant house where Sophie and Peter resided. The couple has moved away, leaving behind a void. Walking across the field, a familiar landscape where he and Rémi once reveled, Léo allows himself to reminisce. The memories of their connection flood his thoughts, and in this poignant moment, Léo permits himself the necessary space to grieve for Rémi.

Production

On December 19, 2018, revealed plans for his next project, following the success of his award-winning debut film “Girl” at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018. Reuniting with co-writer Angelo Tijssens and producer Dirk Impens, Dhont embarked on a new cinematic journey, emphasizing that while the upcoming film would differ, it would retain the stylistic essence of “Girl.” He teased that a central queer character would take the spotlight in this production. Drawing inspiration from psychologist Niobe Way's exploration of teenage boys' intimacy in her book “Deep Secrets: Boys' Friendships and the Crisis of Connection,” Dhont titled the film “Close,” echoing the recurrent theme of profound friendships in the source material.

The project remained relatively dormant until July 23, 2020, when Dhont initiated an open casting call for the film's two male lead roles. The search focused on discovering amateur actors, with auditions scheduled for the end of August. Filming was slated to commence the following summer, and the casting call welcomed individuals fluent in both French and Dutch. Ultimately, the decision to film in French was made after the casting process. On October 20, 2020, the film officially adopted the title “Close,” and The Match Factory joined as the international sales agent. Dhont's brother, Michael Dhont, also joined the production team. On June 29, 2021, “Close” secured financial support from Eurimages, with the fund contributing €300,000 to the project.

The commencement of principal photography took place on July 9, 2021, coinciding with the announcement of key cast members and . Dhont expressed his excitement about returning to the set after the impactful journey of “Girl,” noting the significance of the story and the exceptional talent assembled for the film.

Critical Response

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Close boasts an impressive approval rating of 91%, calculated from 151 reviews by critics, with an average score of 8.4/10. The consensus on the website lauds the film as emotionally moving for the majority of its duration, with a manipulative ending unable to detract from the overall experience. Described as a tender and powerfully acted exploration of lost childhood innocence. Metacritic, utilizing a weighted average, assigns the film a score of 81 out of 100 based on 34 reviews, signifying “universal acclaim.” Critics applauded Dhont's script and direction, commending the film's cinematic technique and narrative structure in handling themes of adolescence and coming out. The performances of the cast were also lauded.

Peter Bradshaw, writing for The Guardian, awarded the film a score of 4/5, deeming the story disturbing and the end of the friendship devastating. He appreciated the film's ability to convey outrage at what he perceives as a disloyal capitulation to homophobia. The acting was praised, with De Waele and Dambrine described as excellent and Dequenne and Drucker as valuable appearances. Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter characterized the film as a heart-crushing yet emotionally rich story about suicide and guilt. Robbie Collin from The Daily Telegraph gave it a perfect score of 5/5, praising Dhont's flawless direction and the film's portrayal of friendship and solitude.

Roberto Nepoti of la Repubblica, in an Italian press review, divided the film into two narrative moments, praising the delicacy in dealing with the sensitive subject of sexuality in its immature and undefined state. He commended the well-mastered screenplay and the director's symbolic use of colors but noted a tendency towards the overly emotional in the second half. In a Cannes poll by IndieWire, Close was named the best film of the festival by 75 critics, and it shared the Grand Prix with Claire Denis' Stars at Noon. The film clinched the Sydney Film Prize at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2022, and in September 2022, it was selected as Belgium's submission for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. Close secured a spot on the December shortlist and ultimately received an Academy Award nomination on January 24, 2023.

Directed by
Screenplay by
Produced by
  • Dirk Impens
  • Michiel Dhont
Starring
Cinematography Frank van den Eeden
Edited by Alain Dessauvage
Music by Valentin Hadjadj
Production
companies
Distributed by
  • Lumière (Benelux)
  • Diaphana Distribution (France)
Release dates
  • 26 May 2022 (Cannes)
  • 1 November 2022 (France)
  • 2 November 2022 (Belgium)
  • 3 November 2022 (Netherlands)
Running time
104 minutes
Countries
  • Belgium
  • France
  • Netherlands
Languages
  • French
  • Dutch

 

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