‘Close’ review – How to live after losing a friend

There are hundreds upon hundreds of films about romantic breakups, yet they never quite move me as much as films concerning broken friendships. It almost feels more taboo to depict the dissolution of these kinds of relationships. Why they appeal so much, though, might have to do with the fact that not everyone has been in love. But more likely than not, everyone has had a best friend at some point. And if they count themselves lucky, they can only imagine what it’s like to lose that person. That support system. That sense of unmatched intimacy.

Lukas Dhont‘s profound and resonating comprehension of loss is writ large across Close. The Belgian filmmaker and co-writer Angelo Tijssens conceive a heartbreaking coming-of-age story like few others. And while it’s true there’s a discernible tinge of romance to the film’s core relationship, first and foremost, Close encapsulates the grief that comes with losing one’s best friend. For a lot of people, their boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife is also their best friend. However, it’s unclear if young Léo and Rémi were more than platonic; we spend so little time with these boys before their bond is severed. At the very least, they were one another’s everything for a short time, and only they could define the kind of love they had.

Léo and Rémi (Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele) spend most of their time together, both at home and at school. They get lost in their own world like many kids their age, and they talk as if they’re speaking a language only they can understand. Everything eventually changes when their peers pick up on the pair’s closeness. Léo becomes self-conscious and starts to push Rémi away, and Rémi acts out. What happens next then sends shockwaves through the school, the boys’ families, and the entire town.

Being such a beautifully shot film, enriched by rural vistas, inviting hues and vivid colors, it’s downright startling when Close takes its deeply emotional and upsetting turn. What started out as a story of two kids growing apart, due to social pressures, quickly becomes a heart-wrenching, barefaced study of young anguish. The previous unconcern of the first act, before the fallout, is replaced with sheer sentimental weight that sits on your chest until the very end.

What hurts the most about Close is the performances. Nothing from the cast is excessive or awkward. How everyone reacts to everything is largely natural, but when a scene calls for more than stoicism, the actors show up. Dambrine carries the film on his small shoulders; his confused character is forced to hide and show his feelings in ways only an actual boy his age would. It’s devastatingly authentic. The mindful Émilie Dequenne, who plays Rémi’s mother, keeps her character’s emotions in check before surrendering to her own much needed release.

Close will hit close to home in some way or another. When it’s not grievous, it’s achingly bittersweet. The heartfelt realism is never compromised by syrupy writing, and the film’s presentation is as immaculate as it is magnificent. Admittedly there’s not a huge amount of dialogue to be found in Dhont’s second film, but in the end, mere words can’t express how these overwhelmed characters are feeling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: