Close: Through the Labyrinth of Friendship

The movie reminds us that the line between friendly affection and a romantic attraction is a fine one
Close: Through the Labyrinth of Friendship

The world today cherishes friendships because we are certain how it is one of the few things that gives meaning and value to our survival. It is a profound and fundamental part of our human experience. At any point of time, when we come of age, we realize that the universe is full of complexities and uncertainties and that navigating them is a hard task when done alone. At times like this, friendships become the rare vessels of companionship that ferry you to the other side of the shore. But what happens when this powerful human connection is abruptly, but unintentionally, severed and you have no choice but to deal with the aftermath alone? 

Lucas Dhont’s 2022 film Close, is a coming of age story that speaks to the universal experience of growing up with the innocence of friendships and the responsibilities of nurturing the same when faced with the treacherous waves of societal norms. The movie is poignant in the way it explores the forced transition from childhood to adolescence without the supportive hand of friendship. Within this tale, we encounter Leo and Remi, two teenage boys whose bond transcends limitations, enabling them to revel in the boundless freedom of their friendship. Their connection flows effortlessly, untethered by the outside world, evoking a sense of refreshing nostalgia for the bygone era of authentic camaraderie. Within the purity of their friendship, they exist as kindred spirits, inseparable to the point where they may be mistaken for siblings.

Close: Through the Labyrinth of Friendship
We Have Become More Interested In The Performance Of Masculinity: Lukas Dhont

The innocence of same-sex friendships and affections and how it can occasionally be misinterpreted for romantic attraction is the main idea of the movie. But it is the intentional loss of a friendship and the regret that follows which forms the heart of this movie. When exposed to the world outside their cherished sanctuary, the boys are asked, “Are you both together?”, a question that makes one of them visibly uncomfortable and conscious of whether their friendship is romantic or platonic. They are forced to confront the societal norms that dictate how they should interact and behave with one another or they will be met with the ominous critical eyes of the others. This causes a chasm in their bond, one that only regrets fills in much later. 

Watching the movie unfold, I was reminded of how difficult the initial years of adulthood are. It is a time of questioning and experimentation, a tumultuous episode when the pressure to fit in and conform is at its highest. The film captures this beautifully, with the boys grappling with their own emotions, trying to find answers to the nature of their friendship. Léo finds himself experiencing a strange insecurity as his very sense of self undergoes scrutiny. The purity of his childlike innocence dissipates irreversibly, making space for a range of confounding emotions that elude his comprehension. These testing times make Leo believe that perhaps it is better to keep a safe distance than to give way to criticism. The slow and sudden breakup leaves Remi in disarray as he tries in more ways than one to rebuild their friendship but all in vain. 

Close: Through the Labyrinth of Friendship
8 On-Screen Female Friendships That Will Warm Your Heart

Eventually Leo is informed that Remi has given up and is no longer around. This tragedy is heartbreaking and is very reflective of the turning point that usually surfaces when you have no choice but to come of age and must grapple with the realities of your situation. There is often a surplus of confusion when one is forced by circumstances to transition into adolescence. Leo’s silences speak volumes of the difficulty of wrapping your head around unanticipated responsibility, as he struggles to articulate his thoughts to explain this conundrum. His deep sense of regret for being the reason behind the loss of his closest friendship serves as a poignant reminder of the timeless adage that says, “you don't realize how much someone means to us until they are gone”. His emotionally rich character is also a prime example of how grief can make people grow sooner than you’d like them to. 

Despite being an openly queer director, Dhont does not define the nature of the friendship that the boys share by labeling it under a particular sexuality. This is, in my opinion, one of the best strengths of Close. As an audience you are constantly tempted to think that at least one of the boys is gay. But the movie turns your thoughts on their heads, and reminds you that the line between friendly affection and a romantic attraction is a fine one. The boyish friendship they share is heartfelt and the reason why it looks so unique is because most same-sex friendships today are often imitating societal gender norms. Many of us who have been in the boys' position can identify with the detrimental consequences of revealing any level of intimacy or vulnerability to a same-sex friend. Like Leo, the fear of being labeled under a different sexual identity often makes one monitor their own behaviors. Either a cautious friendship forms as a result, or none at all. 

Close: Through the Labyrinth of Friendship
Harry Potter And Ron Weasley Have The Best On-Screen Friendship

The loss Leo endures acts as a catalyst for personal growth, as he apprehensively assumes responsibility for pushing away his closest friend. There is a moving scene in the film when you see Remi’s mother run across the forest in search of Leo and you see the latter hold a thick branch against her in self-defense. He is scared because he cannot fathom how she would react to his confession. They nonetheless share an embrace and find solace and closure in their shared grief. The movie concludes with a poignant scene in the dahlia fields, where Léo's realization of Remi's permanent absence sparks a renewed sense of identity and an invaluable lesson in protecting friendships against all odds while staying true to oneself. Close prompts us to embrace the nuanced complexity of human relationships and reminds us that true friendships have no boundaries. It teaches us that a coming-of-age experience is not just about self-discovery but also about unlearning our societal prejudices that hinder our authentic expression of love and companionship.

Related Stories

No stories found.