Cannes 2022: Lukas Dhont's Beautiful & Emotionally Vibrant 'Close'
by Alex Billington
May 27, 2022
There's only so much I can really talk about with this film in a review from the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, because it's one of these vitally important works of cinema that you must see for yourself. I don't want to spoil it or discuss too much before everyone else has the opportunity to watch it, because the discussions are best once you've watched it as well. The most I can do now is talk about how beautiful this film is, how much it's a genuine work of art that exemplifies all of what cinema can and should be. How it utilizies emotional storytelling as a way to offer audiences hope to heal and understand, to empathize and sympathize with the characters. You may not even be able to realize just how this film will get stuck in your mind, how it will linger and affect you for months and years after. The power of extraordinary cinema. Close is the latest film by Belgian writer / filmmaker Lukas Dhont, who already played in Cannes back in 2018 with the film Girl.
Dhont's Close is an intimate and vibrant story about friendship. Newcomers Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele star as best friends Leo and Rémi, two 13-year-old boys. They are inseparable, spending every minute of every day together, running and exploring and often even eating meals together. They live in a rural farm area of Belgium, and Leo helps his parents on their farm growing and cultivating flowers of all kinds. One of the most breathtaking shots in this film involves the two of them running through the colorful flower fields. For most of the film, the camera is focused entirely on Leo, often cutting out most of the other people around him and intensely focused on his face. But it also opens up to show us more of his world, allowing us to gasp at how gorgeous this land looks as shot through the lens of DP Frank van den Eeden. I just wanted to spend the rest of the day (or week) in this world, exploring the fields and forests of Belgium.
The core of the film is based on the relationship between Leo and Rémi. It can be examined and analyzed in different ways, which is how cinema works, but I simply saw it as a story of two very close friends. They love each other! They may not say that, but it's certainly the feeling between them. Everything begins to unravel when homophobia rears its ugly head at school one day. What seems to be a simple question sets in motion a series of events that will alter their world forever. It hit me so hard and made me miss my friends. But it also made me question myself, and whether I'm not being a good enough friend. Whether I'm not expressing my feelings honestly, or whether I'm hurting my friends by acting in a certain way. We shouldn't let others disrupt our intimate connections, we shouldn't let anything get in the way of love and intimacy. This film is a hard one to shake but I always hope that through the emotions of cinema we can learn to better ourselves.
Most of all, Dhont's Close is an utterly beautiful film - beautiful in every sense and possibility of that word, and in every aspect of filmmaking. From the aforementioned stunning cinematography, to the moving score by Valentin Hadjadj, to the remarkable performances from Leo and Rémi and the entire cast of kids and adults, to the deeply emotional story that will reach deep into every last person that watches this film. Actors Léa Drucker, Émilie Dequenne, Kevin Janssens, and Igor van Dessel also bring their best to this. Dhont knows how to capture intimacy so powerfully on camera, and allows emotion to be expressed without words. I think most importantly he wants us to think about how we treat others, how harmful and hurtful it can be if we don't let love flourish. It does not mater what other people say, and that's something that we need to think more about, with this film hopefully encouraging more thoughtfulness among friends.