Close: review boys don’t cry

Close: review boys don't cry

to be or not to be

Quickly elevated to the status of young prodigy following an overwhelming first visit to Cannes in 2018, Lukas Dhont was able to offer, from the height of his twenty-six springs, a sensitive, harsh and visceral debut feature. Retracing with infinite benevolence the journey of Lara, an aspiring transgender prima ballerina struggling with a discordant anatomy, Girl deployed a delicate discourse on the transition to adulthood, identity and gender issues.

Through the prism of this second work, just as intimate as his predecessor, the young filmmaker reappropriates these same themes in order to explore another side. Largely inspired by his own pre-adolescent spleen, he bluntly probes the tricks of masculinity in the light of puberty.

Close: photoGarden of Eden

To better highlight the drama to come, Lukas Dhont first takes care to deploy during the first fifteen minutes of his film the full extent of the fusional bond uniting his two protagonists, Léo (Eden Dambrine, true revelation), and Rémi (Gustav De Waele, brilliant with a skin-deep sensitivity).

Thirteen years old, a pivotal age in the evolution of the relationship between the self and the world, the two boys still innocently enjoy the bucolic setting of the flower farm run by Léo’s family. The, they dream of being knights, brothers in arms, throw themselves headlong into races on the back of bicycles and multiply without restraint the demonstrations of physical affection under the resolutely tender camera of the filmmaker.

Close: photo, Eden Dabrine, Gustav De Waele, Emilie DequenneUno obvious alchemy between the actors

However, the relationship will experience a violent breaking point when the two characters enter college, where the organic nature of their complicity does not take long to attract the attention of their comrades. Through the sometimes curious, sometimes downright cruel and insistent remarks of other teenagers, visibly confused, even upset by this flagrant transgression of traditional social codesthe filmmaker introduces to his story the beginnings of an instinctive rejection of intimacy to better soothe the gaze of others.

Close: photo, Gustav De Waele, Igor Van Dessel, Gustav De Waele“Because it was him, because it was me”

a man, a real man

Concerned about the idea that his friendship with Rémi will be perceived as something sexual, Léo makes the decision to move away from the latter and quickly fits into a logic of artificial male performativity. On the advice of a comrade whose virility he seeks to imitate (if the term is appropriate), the teenager then joins the local ice hockey club.

The filmmaker’s choice of this sport is far from trivial, and intelligently underpins the brutality and competitiveness expected of young men in the making. The wire-mesh helmet slapped on Léo’s face illustrates the emotional self-censorship that the character inflicts on himself, materializing in addition the newly erected barriers between his interiority and the world around him.

Close: photo, Eden DabrineLike a bird in a cage

With Close, Lukas Dhont therefore directs a film based on the unspoken in which emotion no longer passes, out of modesty and social necessity, through dialogue, but through the body. True receptacles of this vulnerability harshly sacrificed on the altar of the norm, thehe bodies of the two characters gradually allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the weight of their broken sensibility and growing guilt.

Hurt by this abrupt distance, the reasoning of which he does not understand, Rémi first exults his uneasiness through violence, before finally committing the irreparable. Léo, meanwhile, compensates for his inner torments with physical exhaustion, a theme already observed in the filmmaker’s previous film.

The entire staging of the film is thus based on Leo’s looks and movements. The character officiates as an anchor point for the cinematographic device of the filmmaker, which confirms his talents as a seasoned choreographer. Like Lara’s dance steps in Girleach of the gestures, each of the glances, each of the bodily intentions of the character are frontally scrutinized by the eye of the camera to better transcribe the constrained language.

Close: photo, Gustav De WaeleLoss of impending innocence

so close

By his own admission, Lukas Dhont had a certain difficulty in mourning his first film, so much so that this one seems to openly haunt its successor. In addition to the themes and recurring motifs by which the filmmaker’s concise filmography is characterized, the treatment of the dynamics between the characters and even certain shots sometimes seem to be reproduced identically between the two films.

One thinks, for example, of the scene where Leo joins his older brother in his bed, an obvious echo of the one where Lara joined his father’s bed in the middle of the night, or the one where Leo’s mother (brilliantly interpreted by Léa Drucker ) embraces her son from behind while the latter, overcome by his emotions, struggles furiously to escape her embrace. A moment of believed humanity already observed identically between Lara and her father.

If these visual recurrences in no way interfere with the overall quality of the footage, they nevertheless testify to a certain blunder of the director in freeing himself from potential tics of staging.

Close: photo, Emilie Dequenne, Eden DambrineÉmilie Dequenne, absolutely brilliant

Another downside and not the least, where the young filmmaker had managed to deviate from the many times tested tracks of the moralizing drama with Girl, Close sometimes succumbs to these unfortunate tricksters, which weaken the experience and the purpose of the film. After a first bright part, the story seeks a little too much to force the viewer’s emotionand barely resists the codes of melodrama.

The film thus multiplies the use of a soundtrack saturated with haunting violins, contemplative shots on the closed faces of its protagonists, and complacent symbolism. The result is a work that is certainly more accomplished than Girl on the technical side, but more manufactured, and less authentic than the latter.

Close: photo, Emilie Dequenne, Eden Dabrine, Léa DruckerA few moments of light

However, this is not to throw the stone at Lukas Dhont for his few factory effects. All in all, if Close is far from being as organic as the first born of the filmmaker, it nevertheless remains a pretty testament to intimacy. Delicate portrait (in every sense of the word) of a friendship alienated by the archaic codes of heteronormative conformism, Lukas Dhont’s new film contains within its clumsy setting a precious message.

Close: official poster (2)


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