With so many bad American films flooding the market, I find it more interesting and rewarding to take a look at some of the foreign films that will be competing for the upcoming Academy Awards. Two of the best I recommend with four stars and no reservations are in the same coming-of-age genre, with equally outstanding results.
CLOSE TO ★★★★ (4/4 stars)
From Belgium, Close to is a fresh, touching and unforgettable chronicle of manly confidence and devotion between two 13-year-old boys from neighboring farms who experience a flush of first love they don’t understand because it just happens to be not with outsiders, but with each other. Sharp, talented and sensitive, Leo and Remi grew up together, cycled to school together every day, spent almost every night together and bonded. Leo is athletic and outgoing, while Remi is a musical prodigy who naively dreams of fame and fortune during concerts with a classical orchestra. As they grow older, their feelings slowly but intensely grow. At school, the other kids innocently tease them and jokingly call them a married couple. As their interests become more divisive, Leo withdraws and devotes his energies to sports, leaving less time for Remi. They grow apart, like teenagers do when they grow apart. So why do they feel sadness, loss, resentment and then anger?
It is clear that they experience the complex emotions of first love without the knowledge or sophistication to define their feelings. In the end, they resort to violence. They don’t understand their feelings or understand why they have them. When Remi dies unexpectedly (illness, suicide, a broken heart?), all of Leo’s conflicting emotions collide, leaving him lost and unable to cope. It is important to point out that this relationship is not sexual and there is no hint of homosexuality, but the movie is heartbreaking precisely because it proves that even teenagers are capable of intense emotional feelings, even if they don’t know what those are feelings. Are. In a scene similar to the one in Brokeback Mountain when Heath Ledger pays a posthumous visit to Jake Gyllenhaal’s old room and caresses a shirt still hanging in the closet, Leo rekindles a friendship with Remi’s mother and feels a rush of emotion run through his body like a disturbing shiver as he feels remembers what it was like when his best friend still lived there. The ages are decades apart, but the feelings are the same. Belgian writer-director Lukas Dhont maintains the balance between mood and physical beauty with a thrilling eloquence and Eden Dambrine as Leo and Gustav DeWaele as Remi are stunning young discoveries that will not soon be forgotten.
THE QUIET GIRL ★★★★ (4/4 stars)
Meanwhile, from Ireland, the silent girl, crafted with sensitivity and care by first-time writer-director Colm Bairead, it combines serene editing, quiet reserves of power, and understated performances that leave you thinking and feeling rather than just looking. It graciously uses words sparingly, without the padded futility injected by most commercially driven American filmmakers to give viewers more time to waste more money at the concession stand. Movies rarely try to show the power of what is understated and understated; this one is really about what goes on between the lines to fill in the spaces.
Set in 1981, the story explores the tormented world of a 9-year-old girl named Cait (beautifully played by the enchanting newcomer Catherine Clinch), one of four children born to a father who gambled away the family’s resources and an oppressed mother who was pregnant with her fifth child. Neglected at home, bullied at school and falling behind in reading, Cait is another problem her parents are unwilling to deal with. in the middle of no man’s land. There, dirty, disheveled, ragged, underprivileged Cait finds the warmth, attention, and clean clothes she’s been denied at home without the harsh indifference and cruelty she used to get from something as simple as bed-wetting. Over time, Cait undergoes a transformation that changes her life, caused by complete strangers. It’s amazing how life-affirming something as simple as leaving an extra cookie next to an empty plate on the table can be.
It’s all achieved through trial and error, but mostly through a colorful palette of emotional grace and intensity in director Bairead’s tight, orderly script and the sweet, reserved, emotional directness of Catherine Clinch’s blue eyes. Spoken in unintelligible Gaelic with compassionate English subtitles, you feel what she feels through nuance rather than dialogue. What a triumph for a debut director. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Close to And The silent girl may not be the kind of movies that lure record-breaking crowds, but they are a few movies for which adjectives like gentle, lyrical, and heartbreaking have been invented.
Observer Reviews are regular reviews of new and notable movies.