Director: Lukas Dhont
Writer: Lukas Dhont, Angelo Tijssens
Cast: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Émilie Dequenne, Léa Drucker, Igor van Dessel, Kevin Janssens
Seen on: 1.2.2023
Content Note: suicide
Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are best friends, spending practically every second they can together. As the summer holidays draw to a close and they return to school, they reamin inseparable. Until classmates ask them whether they are a couple or “just friends”. Léo is taken back by the suggestion that he could be gay, maybe because there is some truth to it. In any case, he distances himself from Rémi. The latter doesn’t understand Léo’s behavior at all, and he becomes increasingly desperate.
Close is a beautifully made, emotional film that nevertheless left me frustrated above all. I am so tired of tragic queer stories that are only able to explore the pain that homomisia causes and none of the joy that queerness brings.
Close is not a bad film, far from it. The two boys, Dambrine and De Waele, are fantastic in their respective roles, and my heart went out to both Léo and Rémi. Rémi’s lack of understanding of Léo’s distance and his heartbreak touched me in particular. When I was a little younger than the two boys here, I, too, had a friend who distanced themselves from me very suddenly and to me incomprehensibly. The film brought me right back there and let me mourn that loss of friendship once again.
That the film didn’t think that was dramatic enough, though, and actually has Rémi commit suicide, that was really hard to take. On the one hand, we know that queer kids have a higher rate of suicide and that should not be ignored for sure (although the film remains even more ambiguous about Rémi’s possible sexual orientation than about Léo’s, so he might not actually be queer). There is even a scene that hints at a possible fragile mental state on Rémi’s part, when his parents flip out about him locking the bathroom door (although when I saw the scene, I just thought they were being weird, crappy parents), so it’s not like it comes out of nowhere.
On the other hand, though, there is this abundance of sad queer stories in mainstream cinema – and the film getting an Oscar nomination probably should have been warning enough to me that we were heading this way. There is a reason, there is a trope called Bury Your Gays, and one Gayngst-Induced Suicide. It appears that (again, mainstream/critically acclaimed) cinema likes nothing more than show us the dangers and tragedy of being queer. And you know what? As a queer person, I can tell you that being queer is a joy. It’s community and parades and love. And that’s the part that I would love to see more of in films. But that’s not the kind of film that Dhont has made, and it’s definitely not the kind of film that usually gets Oscar nominations.
So, depending on how tired you are of this kind of cinema, Close will appeal to you – or it won’t. It’s certainly well-made, unobtrusively set in scene, with an excellent balance between leaving things unsaid and making them very obvious. But excuse me if I can’t get excited about it.