July 7, 2023 – This Belgian film, directed by Lukas Dhont, is one I have been trying to watch since last year. I finally got to see it this week, and it was worth the wait. This film has won numerous awards and was nominated for an Academy Award for best international film. I saw all the other Oscar nominees in this category long ago, but this one has proved very elusive, until recently. Now it is available on a few subscription streaming sites like Paramount Plus, Showtime, Direct TV and Fubo.
The story centers on two 13-year-old boys, Léo and Rémi, who have grown up together and enjoy an unusually close friendship. They live near each other in an idyllic farming community and ride their bicycles to school together every day. Trouble brews at school when other students remark that their close friendship appears to be homosexual in nature.
Rémi (played by Gustav De Waele) seems oblivious to these remarks, but Léo (played by Eden Dambrine) is bothered by this talk. He wants there to be no doubt in anyone's mind that he is heterosexual. He begins to push Rémi away, especially when he seems to be getting too close and clingy. He even joins a hockey team to prove his manliness.
Rémi is hurt by this, but he and Léo never discuss the reasons for Léo wanting to appear to be more manly, or why he wants to avoid Rémi's overt public gestures of affection towards him. In fact, large portions of this film are non-verbal. Much of the story is told in very subtle ways, through images and facial expressions only.
It is not surprising that both boys experience great difficulty dealing with their emotions and both find it hard to express themselves. Léo, especially, keeps his feelings bottled up inside. The one person that he could really talk to, was Rémi, and now he cannot talk to him, either. The bad feelings between Rémi and Léo eventually lead to a fight.
Léo is the only person who knows the truth of what is going on inside himself, and that takes a toll on him. Eventually, he has to tell someone, and the person he chooses to talk to is somewhat of a surprise.
If this subject was addressed in an American film, it would be a very different kind of film, more verbal and less subtle. There would be a villain, someone to blame, because that is the American way. In this film, however, there is no villain. There is no preaching and no hitting the audience over the head with a blunt message. Instead, the story is told in a very believable, subtle way.
The acting is excellent by everyone, particularly by Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele and Émilie Dequenne (who plays Sophie, Rémi's mother). The cinematography by the award-winning Frank van den Eeden, is excellent, capturing the beautiful scenery. The writing and direction by Dhont (with Angelo Tijssens) and the editing by Alain Dessauvage, are all superb and spare. Every scene, every shot, counts. This film rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.