The Duckling & The Lizard

Close

Director: Lukas Dhont

Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Emilie Dequenne, Lea Drucker, Igor van Dressel, Kevin Janssens

Running Time: 1 hour 44 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Language: Flemish with English Subtitles

Festival: European Film Festival 2023

Belgian director Lukas Dhont follows up his 2018 film Girl, with an emotionally complex film Close starring an excellent Eden Dambrine as a teenage schoolboy Leo whose childhood friendship with Remi played by Gustav de Waele goes from being extremely close to being exceptionally difficult as both boys enter high school in contemporary Belgium and experience different feelings.

Dhont whose film Close was nominated for the Best International Film at the 2023 Oscars representing Belgium packs his skilful and emotionally taut storyline into an uncomfortable gaze. Most of the film is shot in extreme close up particularly the opening scenes featuring Remi and Leo as they are childhood friends who spend all their waking hours’ together, playing imaginary games against the so-called enemies and spending all their time at Remi’s house with his mother Sophie, a nurse watching on happily.

In a radical shift in circumstances and as Leo and Remi start navigating the treacherous teenage years of high school, Leo yearns to fit into a bigger crowd at school and as a result of bullying knowingly distances himself from Remi, who doesn’t have the emotional capacity to understand why his best friend has started ghosting him.

Close is expertly shot with that casual European nonchalance which gradually draws the viewer into an absolutely poignant and gut-wrenching film. This top class drama, a razor sharp analysis of young human beings in transition in that tricky stage of puberty when they are attempting to deal with complex relationships and ever shifting feelings.

Leo is suddenly thrust into a morally uncomfortable situation one in which he questions his own version of who he wants to be while trying to make amends.

Co-written by Lukas Dhont, Close not only refers to close friendships or bullying but the rather messy dynamic of family relationships and how children are socialized differently, particularly boys who are brought up to be tough, competitive and resilient. Any sign of weakness is seen to be an opportunity for exploitation.

Close is an absolutely heart wrenching and thoroughly human story about the consequences of treating someone cruelly and the social effects of bullying. Eden Dambrine dominates the story in this riveting and psychologically scarring film about cruelty, unarticulated feelings and redemption.

Close gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing about complex issues that need to be discussed intelligently. A superb film.

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