‘Close’ – Review

Lukas Dhont uses the relationship between two adolescent boys as a cathartic study on the intersectionality of friendship, identity, masculinity, and grief. 

13-year-old Leo lives in a rural town where his family spends seasons growing and harvesting flowers. While his family labors away, Leo fills his time making the fields his playground with his best friend Remi. Purity is the foundation of their relationship as they run free in the fields, cycle to school together, and fall asleep in each other’s arms. On the first day of school, the nervous boys describe each other as best friends or brothers when their closeness is questioned by a group of girls.

At this moment, the idea of masculinity is analyzed. The social norm is that two boys are not allowed to behave affectionally towards one another or they must be together. Masculinity revolves around taking part in activities that have been deemed masculine by society and not the ability to emotionally express themselves. Their inseparable relationship is cracked as kids throw homophobic slurs toward the two boys causing Leo to make changes. 

Leo’s innocence is gone as he welcomes a flow of confusing feelings. Leo’s identity was built around Remi and now he finds himself in a place where he doesn’t know how to act separately from his peers. Leo shuts himself off and starts to act cruelly toward Remi. What was once a play fight starts to get brutal, and Remi wanting to join Leo in ice hockey is met with silence. Leo distances himself from who he once was without the awareness of how it will painfully affect Remi. From the moment Leo and Remi break up, the entire film shifts from a coming of age-about identity and masculinity to a tale of grief and healing. Close stresses the importance of welcoming emotions to work through our problems and not to be afraid to ask others for help in times when we feel alone.

Lukas Dhont uses a stripped-down filmmaking approach to focus on the empathetic story and powerful performances. A standout of its mundane settings is the use of changing color palettes to communicate the emotions and moods of the characters. Vibrant nature shots flood the screen when Leo and Remi are close, but the hockey rink contrasts with cold tones as it is not a place that welcomes their closeness.

The film flows lyrically through its use of delicate handheld camera work and character close-ups as well as the muffled sounds to emphasize Leo’s confused state of mind.  Even the dialogue is written to support the idea of closeness, with the beginning of Leo and Remi speaking over each other as the film progresses spaces between speaking are drawn out as the two boys become more distant.

At a young age like Leo and Remi, it is hard to understand your emotions and properly articulate them to yourself or others around you. Close looks at this impressionable age where often young people don’t recognize the significance of the moments or people around them.

Grade: B+

Oscar Prospects:
Nominated: Best International Feature

Release Date: January 27, 2023
Where to Watch: In Theaters

Jillian Chilingerian
she/her @JillianChili
Lives in LA
Favorite Director: David Fincher
Sign: Leo

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