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Close to You: BFI Flare Film Review

Elliot Page looks out of the window in Close to You

Close to You sees Elliot Page in his prime as Sam, who navigates conversations between friends and family as he returns home for the first time since transitioning.

Elliot Page leads Close to You, an incredibly naturalistic story of confrontation, reminiscence and new beginnings. We follow Sam (Page) for the whole of the 98 minute runtime as he visits his father (Peter Outerbridge) for his birthday, along with his siblings and their partners. Sam hasn’t been back home since transitioning, and thankfully, the family’s consensus is positive at first, with hugs all around from everyone. But when his mother (Wendy Crewson) misgenders him, it’s not long before the rest of the family come out with stories of the past. Close to You is such a necessary character study to be showcased on the big screen, with zero sugar coating, exactly how it should be told.

Rekindling a friendship that he thought was long forgotten wasn’t on Sam’s cards, but when he meets a woman who used to be his best friend on the train home, the two reflect on their school days. Katherine (Hillary Baack) was Sam’s first love. The two hadn’t seen each other in so long and sitting across from each other on the train brought up so much intensity. When the train pulls into Cobourg station, where Sam’s childhood home is, Katherine runs ahead, leaving Sam behind. Sam can’t get Katherine off of his mind, so, during his time in Cobourg, he decides to go and see her at work so they can have some time together to properly catch up. Back in 2013, Page and Baack worked together on The East, both in very different roles to those they play in Close to You.

The conversations which Sam has with his family are split between emotional and strenuous, some of which I’ve witnessed first-hand between my queer friends and their parents. Page has been able to bring in his own experience to Close to You, especially with a large chunk of the film being improvised. We’ve all grown to love Page in films such as Juno and Inception, but the authenticity of him in Close to You really makes this role stand out from the rest of his filmography. There’s always been an allure to Page, particularly in Juno, but this is really him at his best. Page is raw and full of talent. It feels like the first of many impassioned performances from him, which is so exciting to see.

Elliot Page looks out of the window in Close to You
Elliot Page in Close to You (Me + You Productions / BFI Flare)

At the heart of the story is Sam’s self-acceptance. People will react to change in different ways: some are just more close-minded than others. Sam has already prepared for unpleasant responses, but the feedback from family is important to him. Particular people in his family are more accepting than others, whilst some just don’t understand the transition that Sam has undergone since the last time they saw him. There’s one particular discussion between Sam and his father that will stick in my head for a while, due to the genuine tears that are shed. Sam’s happiness is paramount, and it’s refreshing to see him so gleeful around certain family members and long-lost friends.

This is Page in his prime, leading a drama film that’s so personal to him. Many won’t have first-hand experience dealing with these heart-to-heart conversations that the characters on screen are going through, so it’s unbelievably important to have a film like this be out in the world, featuring an actor we know and love so much finally living their truth. Director Dominic Savage has a knack for capturing earnest character studies, and Close to You is no different. It’s real and it’s direct. Close to You is unmissable.

Close to You will be screened at BFI Flare 2024 on March 14-24 and will be released in US theaters on August 16, 2024. Read our BF Flare reviews and our list of 10 films to watch at BFI Flare!

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