I don’t think it is a spoiler to say that Close deals with suicide, considering that the suicide takes place only one-third into the film.
Two thirteen-year-old boys, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele), are best friends who live in an idyllic rural atmosphere and are supported by two loving sets of parents. It’s as if the boys have four parents. It is summer and Léo’s parents run a flower farm. Léo and Rémi are proud of each other’s accomplishments, and they even sleep together.
But summer ends and off they go to a new school. On the very first day, in the cafeteria, a girl asks them “Are you together?” Léo explains that they are just “close,” like brothers.
However, the die has been cast, and soon Léo and Rémi are being teased and even bullied. Screenwriters Lukas Dhont and Angelo Tijssens, who are gay, seem to imply that the two boys have just transitioned from childhood innocence to sexually-aware adolescence. But nowadays boys of thirteen have a pretty good idea if they have homosexual feelings, even if they are afraid of them.
Léo, experiencing peer group pressure, begins to withdraw from Rémi, who is deeply hurt and confused. And he kills himself.
It goes without saying that this is an extremely traumatic experience for all who loved Rémi. In one particularly poignant scene, the two families get together for dinner, but small talk about the future is too much for Rémi’s father (Kevin Janssens), who breaks down.
However, most of the film focuses on Léo, who is feeling not just loss, but guilt. He wants desperately to share his emotions with Rémi’s mother (Émilie Dequenne), but he is not mature enough to know how to do it. She senses that Léo is hiding something, but she can’t break through to him.
Dhont, who directed Close, does an excellent job of avoiding melodrama and exploitation, not an easy thing to do, considering the plot. And the actors are all superb. Coincidentally, I saw three films in three days that dealt with suicide. Close was by far the most realistic, the saddest and the most believable.