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Director: Lukas Dhont

Stars: Eden Dambrine, Gustav De Waele, Émilie Dequenne, Igor van Dessel

Belgian writer-director Dhont’s follow-up to his impressive but flawed feature debut, ‘Girl’ the portrait of a Trans ballet dancer, is a heart-rending and empathetic coming of age drama set in rural picturesque Belgium. Thirteen-year-olds Léo (Dambrine) and Rémi (De Waele) are best friends, inseparable and at ease with each other physically to the extent that they frequently sleep together limbs entangled at Rémi’s parents’ place. Rémi’s parents see Léo as another son. When they begin high school, their closeness is remarked upon by a well-meaning but curious fellow student who asks if they are a couple. Embarrassed, Léo insists they’re just good friends, then starts keeping Rémi at a distance. Despite Rémi’s attempts to re-establish their closeness, Léo resists, devoting more of his time to ice hockey and working at his parents’ flower farm instead. Dhont leaves it to the viewer to intuit the exact nature of the boys’ relationship – indeed it’s likely that the boys are figuring it out themselves. It skirts melodrama in the second half after a sudden change of gear, but Dhont elicits soulful performances from his young cast, Dambrine in particular is an exciting find. Frank van den Eeden’s cinematography ranges from tactile close-ups of faces and gestures to almost dreamlike sun-dappled renderings of the Belgium bucolic idyll, like Terrence Malick without the stoner voiceover.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm

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