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Close

Farhad Dalal
By-
Farhad Dalal
Rating
4 Star popcorn reviewss

Introduction

After watching two back to back disaster in the form of Varisu and Waltair Veerayya, I really wished to get back on track with a good film. And so I thought that this is a perfect opportunity for me to go back to some of the International films doing the rounds globally. With that I finished watching the new film Close which is Belgium’s Official Selection to the Academy Awards this year. The film is in the final 15 list and a couple of days before the final 5 films are announced, I decided to wipe this film off my watchlist. The film had earlier premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and is regarded as a Dark Horse at the Oscars this year. So with much hope I did venture into the film ‘Close’. Does it manage to impress, lets find out.

Story & Screenplay(Spoilers + Ending Explained)

Close is the coming of age story of two boys who are inseparable as friends until one of them drifts away from the other following an incident at school. The story here is tender, melancholic and bittersweet that explores the other side of masculinity outside of violence and physicality. There is a tinge of innocence devoid of the judgements of the world that does form the basis of the relationship shown in the story(to begin with). And so this story is painfully heartaching and gut wrenching in the most subtle manner. The screenplay standing at a shade above a 100 minutes doesn’t overstay its welcome, although the two halves do seem like two separate films(but nothing really to complain here). This section shall contain spoilers so viewers discretion advised.

The drama opens on a tender note exploring the relationship between the two boys who are on the cusp of adolescence. But it is also a metaphor in many ways. The two boys are pretending to hide from an army wherein one of the two asks the other, ‘Do you hear noises?’, to which the response is no. This single line was significant in the way things would eventually shape up for the two boys in days to come with respect to the world(signified by the army). The next scene shows them racing past some of the most beautiful fields of flowers. But with each shot of blur, you see only the two of them clearly, and enjoying with each other, much like how the boys did see the rest of the world too. Whether or not they were homosexuals was not the point of the drama that did not provide clear answers yet did not hold back in expressing their relationship in the most beautiful manner without giving it a name.

Soon their dream castle slowly begins to crumble as they visit school. On Leo being called a faggot, he instantly starts to get self aware of his surroundings and how the kids around him perceive ‘them’ to be. So instead he opts for a more masculine sport in the form of Ice Hockey, as almost dismisses Remi from his sight every time. The moments of the duo lying in bed with their limbs intertwined is now a distant reality as the two are embroiled in a fist fight. In a separate scene, the field of flowers were being mowed off representing Leo’s current relationship with Remi. The first 40 odd minutes allows the audience to be a passive bystander in the relationship between the two boys that begins on a high but soon spirals downwards. Yet, the drama is so tender and affectionate that I did find myself drawn to it, more than I had expected to be. But alas, in a sudden twist of fate, tragedy strikes!

While the first hour was a subtle take on the friendship of the boys in an unnamed relationship, the second hour did focus on the issue of teenage suicides which are on the rise. And it is here that the character of Leo was so well portrayed with respect to his traits. It was almost like a void in his life, someone who was once his world, was now not around him. The depiction of depression was so subtle and nuanced with traces of melodrama or the onset of tears. It was routine life except for the big void for Leo wherein he was well aware of him being responsible for the turn of events. Even his Ice Hockey uniform which was once a symbol of masculinity did feel like a bit of a burden. In a spectacular turn of events, he does bang against the wall to fracture his hand, a representation of his fractured soul.

In a fittingly moving scene, Leo does go up to Remi’s mother(both parents did not differentiate between the two boys), admitting to his role in Remi’s suicide. Despite being hurt and unable to control her feelings, she does embrace Leo who in turn allows his agony that was piled up to spill out. In the final scene, Leo is seeing running thus representing his new life wherein he has chosen to now move on. Yet, in a single glance he does look back representing the sorrow and void of Remi which he would have to frequently visit as chapters from his past. This sums up a beautifully penned screenplay which was engaging and subtly engrossing yet tender and delicate with its handling of relationships.

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are subtle and nuanced yet sparingly used for a lasting impact. The BGM is beautifully melancholic and bittersweet representing the mind of Leo and his relationship with Remi, beautifully. The cinematography is beautiful, capturing the scenic beauties in some breathtaking frames. Director Lukas Dhont handles this delicate subject with finesse and narrates a rather profound tale of alternate masculinity with a gentle touch. There was a lot of subtext to the drama which was fulfilling in many ways and for that the direction deserves distinction marks.

Performances

The performances by the ensemble cast is outstanding. Lea Drucker as Nathalie and Emily Dequenne as Sophie are brilliant to watch. Gustav De Waele as Remi is wonderfully understated and does an incredible job. Eden Dambrine as Leo is absolutely outstanding, getting his mannerisms spot on. He was wonderfully restrained taking you on a roller coaster of emotions that would empathize with his character in what was a heartfelt and heart-aching performance.

Conclusion

Close is a bittersweet and melancholic coming of age drama that comes with my highest recommendation. The film is most definitely a Dark Horse in the Foreign Film category and wishing the film the best for the Oscars!

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