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Movie of the Week: “Close”: Two Friends Close Up

When it comes to fields of flowers, the kitsch alert is sounded. But when 13-year-old Remy’s parents harvest flowers to sell, the carefree summer comes to an end. Rémi (Gustav De Waele) is Leo’s best friend. The two boys are inseparable. They hide from the Phantom Knights, sleep together and support each other. Even on the first day of school in a new class. One of the girls says that they somehow seem closer than best friends, given that they are together and a couple. Leo adamantly denies that they are like brothers. But the sight of him and Remy from the outside is restless.

Inspired by his own school days, Belgian director Lucas Dhont prepares a dramatic film about the awakening and loss of childhood innocence. Leo and Remy break up, have a fight in the schoolyard, and their friendship is suddenly overshadowed. A short break was followed by a catastrophe, and suddenly everything changed. For the rest of the movie, more than halfway through, we follow Léo as he represses, escalates, and redirects his emotions during hockey practice, and finally tries to release them again.

Famous for his debut, young director Lukas Dhont made his second work in competition in Cannes, winning the Grand Prix and making it one of the last five films selected for the International Academy Awards this week. On “Close,” he takes his young hero in close-ups for his warm, sunny handheld camera and lends an intense tenderness to the equally tender music. Also close to the focus is Léo, personified by the great discoverer Eden Dambrine. The children’s parents (Leah Drucker and Emily Deakin) keep their distance. There was already an intense friendship film with the Italian “Otto Montagne” of the Belgian duo Felix van Groningen and Charlotte Vandermeerich. Unlike there, “Close” sticks to the boy’s compact and petite but more heartbreaking story.

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The balance of the 105-minute film is fragile, in both the beginning and the end, tension builds up gently, only then to forcefully unload pent-up emotion. “Close” is a movie that’s heavy in content, but – almost in an airy way – not artificially overburdened. So this story of friendship leaves an indulgent, bittersweet aftertaste.