CLOSE Review


I cannot be any blunter about this film – Close is one of the best films of 2023. There is very little doubt that when I put together my list of best films of this year that Close will certainly be on it… and very high up on the list as well.

This is not an easy film to watch and because of its subject matter it could be a trigger warning for some people, but I would argue that this is a film that every parent should watch because no matter what you think the events of this film are something that most kids will have to face in their time at school.

Directed by Lukas Dhont (Girl) Close revolves around the friendship of two young boys – close friends Leo (newcomer Eden Dambrine) and Remi (newcomer Gustav De Waele). The pair spend every waking hour together – either playing pretend war games in the fields near their home and 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 under-statement.

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 with Leo Leo goes the opposite way. Soon Leo is trying to fit in with the other boys by playing soccer and ice hockey and begins to push Remi away which upsets Remi deeply.

It is kind of hard 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 for time or memorial. It is also moments like that that reminds you just how powerful cinema can be.

This is not an easy film to watch, especially if you are someone like me that went through bullying at school. There are some harrowing moments in this film as Leo pushes Remi away and 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 with these scenes and for that I felt grateful because for once parents get a glimpse of what it is like to be a bullied child.

Close truly deserves its Oscar nomination for Best International Feature but I would argue that the film deserved more nominations than just that. Such is the brilliance of this film that Lukas Dhont should have also got a nod for Best Director while newcomer Eden Dambrine deserved a Best Actor nomination despite his age.

Dambrine carries this film for a majority of the time. He is in most scenes throughout the film and as a child actor he is not given an easy ride. He is given some truly emotionally, heart-wrenching scenes that most young actors would struggle with. Instead, he 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 his performance.

Close looks at some confronting topics and won’t always be an easy watch for some of its audience but it is a film that I cannot wait to go back and experience again. Sure the suspense of the film’s most shocking moment won’t be there for me but a revisit is worth it even if just for Dambrine’s performance alone. This is powerful cinema at its best.

4.5/5 Stars