Close is one of the best films of 2023.
Admittedly, this is not an easy film to watch and because of its subject matter and could be a trigger warning for some people, but I would argue that this is a film that every parent should watch. No matter what you may think of the events in the film, these are what most kids will have to face during their time at school.
Directed by Lukas Dhont, Close revolves around the friendship of two young boys, close friends Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Remi (Gustav De Waele). The pair spend every waking hour together either playing pretend war games in the fields near their home, or just chatting and laughing as Remi tries to take part in his music practice. It is also not uncommon for the boys to end up sleeping in the same bed together. To say they are inseparable is an understatement.
But then when the boys start at a new school together, things begin to change. The other boys begin to tease them and begin to question whether or not they are gay. It is a slur that hits Leo hard. While Remi decides to grin and cop it without it affecting his interaction, Leo goes the opposite way. Soon Leo is trying to fit in and begins to push Remi away which upsets Remi deeply.
It is difficult for me to talk about Close without going into spoiler territory but I would suggest that if you want this film to have the same impact on you as it did me then certainly don’t search for anything to do with the plot online. This film contains a shocking moment that still chills me now as I write about it. It is the kind of moment that makes you remember a film long after the moving picture is over. It is also moments like these that remind you just how powerful cinema can be.
This is not an easy film to watch by any means, especially if you are someone like me that also went through bullying at school. There are some harrowing moments where Remi takes the full brunt of the school bullies that cannot wait to literally sink the boot in. Director Lukas Dhont doesn’t hold back and for that, I felt grateful because parents get a glimpse of what it feels like to be a bullied child.
Close truly deserves an Oscar nomination for Best International Feature but I would argue that the film deserves more nominations than just that. Such is the brilliance of this film that Lukas Dhont should have also received a nod for Best Director, while newcomer Eden Dambrine deserved a Best Actor nomination despite his age.
Dambrine carries Close for a majority of the time. He is in most of the scenes and as a child actor, he is not given an easy ride, providing some truly emotionally, heart-wrenching scenes that most young actors would struggle with. Dambrine absolutely shines throughout and ends up putting in one of the best performances that I have ever seen on screen. He maybe young but it seems like a true crime against cinema that The Academy failed to recognise the power of this performance.
Close looks at some confronting topics and won’t always be an easy watch for some, but I cannot wait to go back and experience it again. Sure, the suspense of the film’s most shocking moment won’t be there for me during my second viewing, but it is a worthy revisit even if just for Dambrine’s performance alone. Close is powerful cinema at its best.