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MOVIES: Close - Review

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Close is a heart-breaking, emotionally-charged narrative around the process of grief at a young age, looking at the consequences of toxic masculinity that tears a friendship apart in an irredeemable way. Thirteen year olds Leo and Remi are incredibly close from a young age, but when they enter a new school year, their relationship is questioned and Leo distances himself from his friend – only to be forced to reckon with the consequences of that decision when tragedy strikes. It’s a thing that happens early on in the film, hard to get around without spoiling – but it’s a big, earth-shattering moment that feels so quietly understated and boils over to a deeply devastating scene and from then on, Close feels like a completely different movie – switching up from a utopia into a grief study and the fracturing of a relationship the second school starts and the two have to abide by social normality.

Comparisons can be made to last year’s Playground, The Quiet Girl and Petite Maman the year before where the school playground was presented as a warzone and Lukas Dhont creates a similar vibe here both in the ice-hockey training practice sessions that take its toll on Leo as the film progresses and the schoolyard, where Leo and Remi are questioned consistently for being a little too close for their classmates liking. It doesn’t bother Remi, but Leo is constantly unnerved by the comparisons – resoundly denying that the two are in a relationship despite being viewed as closer than any friends their age. The film explores the consequences of internalised homophobia and toxic masculinity at a young age and the pressure of being seen as ‘normal’ and what that toll takes on the characters’ personal lives – the pair cycle in to school at the same time every day, but there’s a heartbreaking moment when Leo doesn’t wait for Remi – and its repercussions are shattering.

The pair of young actors – Eden Dambrine and Gustav de Waele, convey Dhont’s vision with complete conviction – the chemistry needed to make this thing works is crucial and you buy Leo’s process in the second half of the film completely because of how good Dambrine is. It’s an entirely melancholic vision of this film – whilst the inciting incident comes as a surprise due to how relatively early it happens – the rest of the film deals with it in a superbly moving way, if entirely familiar – you’ll likely have seen everything told here before.

That doesn’t stop Close from absolutely tearing you in two, though. Emotionally manipulative movies are usually very good at being emotionally manipulative and this one is no different – it tugs away at the heartstrings. Whilst Dambrine’s performance may get all the praise, and rightly so – I think de Waele is excellent here, understated and able to convey his affection with so clearly few words – the desperation in his voice at clinging onto a friendship that is falling apart in a way where he has done nothing wrong broke me, and the film doesn’t villainise Leo for making his actions but rather presents the storyline entirely from his perspective; you see his anger and guilt of his actions shine through. It’s a powerfully rich, complex and raw performance that’s nuanced and one of excellence – and shows that even despite supporting parents, the influence of the peers in perception of love and friendship can have a knock on effect that can tear it in two; making the most out of its beautiful usage of saying everything by saying nothing, and the ultimate show not tell approach just suits a movie like this perfectly.

Might just be the film that should’ve won best international picture at the Oscars this year – although it’s in very good company.

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