The Belgian director succeeds in entering the competition with this story of friendship between two 13-year-old kids, shattered by a tragedy
This Thursday, the penultimate day of the Cannes competition, was a day rich in emotions, as the reddened eyes of festival-goers could testify to after having chained the sublime The Lucky Stars by Kore-Eda Hirokazu, more than ever a candidate for a second Palme and this Close which marks the first steps in the Cannes competition of the director of Girlcrowned with the Camera d’Or in 2018.
More than ten minutes of enthusiastic standing ovation followed the final shot of the story of this fusional friendship between two kids, shattered by tragedy. Dhont once again proves his ease in the field of modest melody, aware that the emotional strength of the ordeal experienced by all of his characters would be betrayed by any tearful drift. The filmmaker quickly establishes here the link that has always or almost always united these two 13-year-old kids. A fusional and very tactile friendship which, at the time of leaving childhood to enter the tumultuous hours of adolescence, earned them the finger pointing of some of their little comrades. The words “pedal” or “faggot” begin to fuse in class or in the playground. Not in everyone’s mouth – many are those who, conversely, come to their defense – but enough to start creating a distance between them. Leo moves away and Rémi doesn’t understand, suffers, rages, explodes, before he can no longer bear to live, as if his oxygen had been brutally taken away from him. Close then becomes a film about the guilt of the one who remains and the way of the cross to take in order to admit it to oneself and then to admit it to others. Dhont plays ellipses here to never go into the unbearable, sometimes even holding back the horses a little too artificially. And as he had done with Victor Polster in Girlit reveals two strikingly accurate young actors, Eden Dabrine and Gustav de Waele, notably alongside, in the role of Rémi’s mother, Emilie Dequenne, once again imperial in this ultra-emotional register.
Dhont explains that it took time to follow up after the international success of Girl, to find the inspiration not to stutter while remaining faithful to who he is. To his desire to talk about the child and adolescent he was, the suffering he was able to go through to help today’s children and adolescents faced with identical situations to feel less alone in their differences. And rather than beautiful but vain speeches, he makes films on edge, deploying a physical intensity that sometimes evokes the work of a Xavier Dolan. The always delicate course of the second feature is in any case crossed here not without superb.