CLOSE – Review by Diane Carson

Teenagers are works in progress, testing their values, struggling with decisions, all impacting their evolving identity. In their development, constructive or negative peer reactions matter immensely. Navigating all this, plus repressive gender constraints, lies at the heart of Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s Close, focused on thirteen-year-olds Léo and Rémi, enjoying their warm, exuberant friendship in rural Belgium.

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CLOSE – Review by Jennifer Green

Belgium’s International Oscar submission, Close, tells the story of two young boys who enjoy an exceptionally close relationship. Their fondness manifests in a level of physical comfort which prompts classmates to ask whether they’re “together.” The line of questioning, and some homophobic teasing that follows, motivates one of the boys to push the other away and seek alternative friendships and involvement in ostensibly more masculine activities. The break leads to tragedy.

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THE QUIET GIRL – Review by Jennifer Green

The Quiet Girl, Ireland’s submission for this year’s International Oscar, is the kind of film you watch with a knot in your throat, knowing its gentle beauty and suggestive foreshadowing may give way to sadness, if not outright tragedy, compounded by the unalterable reality of its setting. This time and place – early 1980s rural Ireland – would seemingly have it no other way.

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BANTU MAMA – Review by Jennifer Green

Bantú Mama, the Dominican Republic’s nominee to the International Oscar category this year, is about a French-Camaroonian woman who gets caught attempting to transport drugs out of Santo Domingo but escapes police custody and has to hide out in the slums until she can leave the country. It’s a slow-moving story full of evocative detail, and it stars an impressive and largely unknown (at least to international audiences) cast led by Clarisse Albrecht, also the film’s co-writer with director Ivan Herrera, and Scarlet Reyes.

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CLOSE – Review by Serena Seghedoni

In Lukas Dhont’s tender and tragic coming of age story, it’s best if you go into the movie knowing very little about it, letting each new development sink in until the film reaches its resolution, and you’re left with an experience that spoke to your very core. Suffice it to say that when the two central characters — best friend teenage boys — stop talking to each other, Close> immediately evolves into a completely different kind of movie

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