Review by Isabella Littler

Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont’s second feature, Close (2022), paints an incredibly intimate portrait of the relationship between two young boys. Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are inseparable, sharing everything from beds to families. However, the extent of their relationship is questioned by classmates upon entering secondary school. Through beautiful mise-en-scène and strong performances, Dhont has created a deeply moving exploration of toxic masculinity and how societal norms contribute to the pains of growing up. 

Dambrine and De Waele both give heartbreaking performances, despite how differently their characters confront their shared conflict. Léo is defensive and embarrassed of being perceived as having romantic feelings for Rémi. He throws himself into sports and hangs out with a more masculine crowd, but cannot avoid being confronted by how his actions hurt his friend. Rémi is innocent and reserved, not the type to snap back at the remarks his classmates make. While he tries to bottle his feelings, he is deeply hurt by Léo’s betrayal and struggles to understand what he did to push Léo away. This magnitude of emotion, so difficult to discern and work through at such a young age, is shown in every shot of the boys’ faces.

The strength of the film’s visuals extends beyond character shots, primarily in the setting of the chrysanthemum fields which are both a source of work for Léo’s family and a playground for Léo and Rémi. As the seasons change, so too does the role of the fields in Léo’s life as he plays with Rémi less and begins helping his family with the harvesting. Perhaps a bit overt in its symbolism, but no less enchanting with its vibrant rainbow of hues, the color and life of the flowers are a strong reflection of adolescent growth.

It would be remiss to not mention the turning point in the film, the shock and regret that follows. It could certainly be argued that the fallout is unnecessarily melodramatic and cruel. However, to hold that viewpoint is to perhaps disregard the film’s intent to validate the feelings of young people. Close pulls you into the world of two 13-year-old boys, showing you how looming and suffocating the challenges of their everyday life are to them. To fully experience both the film and Dhont’s vision is to allow and embrace that immersion, while perhaps reflecting on your personal childhood experiences at the same time.


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