Lukas Dhont’s latest film Close is the newest submission for Belgium for International Feature. And it’s stunner. The film is about two kids Leo and Remi who are inseparable. It starts out during their summer holiday right before the new year of school begins. Leo and Remi spend every second together, playing games in the fields, riding their bikes together, practicing their musical instruments, and sleeping over at each others houses. Remi has problems sleeping at night and Leo would calm him down with bedtime stories and reminding him to breathe. They are best friends.
When the school year begins Remi and Leo are thrust into a new environment where other school kids start questioning their friendship. Because they’re always together, a group of girls decide to ask them if they’re a couple because they’re always close, a little too close. Leo objects to this insistently.
But Leo is affected by this and begins to distance himself from Remi. Leo tries to make friends with new kids, he begins to play hockey, and he doesn’t want to sleepover at Remi’s house anymore. Remi though continues to want to hang out with Leo all the time but their friendship will never be the same again.
Dhont has created an emotional roller coaster of feelings. His two leads, Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele, are the stars of the show and it wouldn’t succeed without them. Every frame is shot with perfection. Every dialogue has a purpose. The music and the scenery, it all works. Dhont has created a portrait of grief. His film is a realistic, concise and often overwhelming glimpse into how our actions effect everyone around us.
Films like this are super important for anyone who’s struggling within themselves. With self acceptance. Being a kid in school is super difficult. Being a kid who’s struggling with their identity can be even harder. Most students who are “different” will be harassed in school either with bullying or verbal assaults. And the graveyard of the school playground is where it happens the most. As a child it can feel like this pain will never go away. That it’ll never get better. But it does. It really does. And we need to keep our loved ones as close to us as possible and remind them that this will all pass. And that the future will be bright. The most special people are the ones that are different.