By: Reel Dialogue
As the awards season closes, many international films getting recognition are getting their moment in the spotlight.
Director Lukas Dhont’s coming-of-age tale takes audiences into the modern world of male friendship and how rumours can ruin families’ lives.
Thirteen-year-old friends, Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav de Waele), have lived in a rural community, and the boys are inseparable. The pair would play games in the fields around their homes, their parents saw them as brothers in many ways, and each would sleep most nights at one another’s houses with no sexual overtones. The boys grew closer throughout the summer as they enjoyed their unique connection until the realities of life hit as they headed to high school. Here is where gossip about their relationship instigates a rift between the boys that causes emotional turmoil for both of them. Until it escalates to a tragic incident that rips painful wounds in each family and the community that may never heal.
What makes this film both compelling and gut-wrenching can be attributed to the performances of Eden Dambrine and Gustav de Waele. These boys capture the transition from innocence to unwanted pre-adulthood in their actions and well-timed gazes. Each conveys a range of emotions that would be enviable to most adult actors while capturing the heartbreaking innocence lost with minimal dialogue. Émilie Dequenne delivers a beautifully melancholic interpretation of the grieving mother trying to reconcile what has happened to her son. Yet, Lukas Dhont has to be given credit for guiding the outstanding acting from his youngest stars, who brought this film to a devastating conclusion.
This cautionary tale has a ripple effect that shines a light on our global community that takes on multiple aspects to consider. There is the unfortunate factor of how male friendship has been jeopardised as boys cannot maintain close relationships without being labelled unfairly. Also, it shows how critical parents’ role is in their children’s lives as they get into their teens and the value of having conversations about relationships and sexuality. For all who can attest to the viscous nature of the school playground, this film shows how important it is for mothers and fathers to talk with their children despite the potential pushback that might ensue.
‘A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.’ – Proverbs 18:24
In this modern era, the discussion of male friendship has been under threat. The thing that should be celebrated in this film is that boys can be friends. Yet, it shows how easily people try to label these friendships instead of allowing them to flourish. While there are no sexual undertones between the boys, our modern ideals automatically make their connection into something it is not. All the while, these two young men should be allowed to be friends who hang out, laugh and challenge each other to create.
The true tragedy of this storyline goes beyond this one relationship, since it needs to be a warning to us all. Humanity is designed for human connection and friendship. We should be slow to define these connections and allow these innocent boys to just be friends.
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
Feature image: Movie stills
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.