Connect with us

Featured Review

BFI Flare 2024 – Close To You ★★★



Released: 2024 (BFI Flare)

Director: Dominic Savage

Starring: Elliot Page

Review By: Asyia Iftikhar

Close To You, directed by BAFTA filmmaker Dominic Savage, is a fractured, intimate drama uncovering the intricacies of familial exile, long lost love and the power of self-reclamation in a stunning return to the big screen for Elliot Page. 

When Toronto-based trans man Sam (Page) decides to visit home, a small town near Lake Ontario, Page immediately sets the tone with a performance masterfully packed with inherent discomfort and the fear of the unknown. This is the first time Sam has returned home in four years, since he started his transition and began living as his true self. His family, composed of various siblings, their partners and a set of parents eternally concerned for his well being, are well-meaning but difficult to be around. 

But this is a film of two parts. As Sam travels home, he stumbles across his high school best friend Katherine (Hillary Baack). The yearning and long-lost connection between the two is immediately evident as they reconnect for the first time in years. And so we see two converging plots, the out-of-control spiralling of Sam’s visit home and the crescendoing connection between Sam and Katherine, who never truly lost that spark between them. 

The script, largely improvised, lends itself to a more authentic feel. As the conversations flow between embittered siblings and parents filled with regret, Page perfectly captures the exhaustion many LGBTQ+ people will relate to as he explains himself, and his joy in existing, over and over again. 

We see the guilt that bores a stoop in Sam’s back at the heartache and anguish his departure left behind. We see the hesitance with which he opens himself up again in the home that harboured his darkest days. And we see the insidious ways transphobia can worm its way into conversation, whether accidental or purposefully malicious.

The conversations Sam has with his parents about his upbringing and the sacrifices it took for him to find true happiness are particularly moving. It offers a catharsis in his vindication and a balm to his parent’s fears. His relationship with his family shines a light on the nuance many queer people experience in their family situations. Not one of outright disownment nor one of glowing acceptance but somewhere in the messy in between where everyone is trying their best – most of the time.

Over with Katherine, Close To You taps into another near-universal experience for LGBTQ+ people experiencing a second-coming-age where they can finally embrace themselves. A high school love story played out by adults. Sam and Katherine’s tender conversations reflecting on all that was and all that could have been are sweet and endearing, with both Baack and Page showing gorgeously crafted onscreen chemistry. It is a breath of fresh air to see queer intimacy and trans love on the big screen where the character’s trans identity is not the crux of the tension and sets a powerful precedent for future storytelling.

Ultimately, however, these are two films compressed into one. Both stories have equal allure and validity but by switching between them, it takes away from fleshing out and realising Close To You’s full potential.

The scene-switching creates a broken feeling to the narrative and, at times, Page is setting an onscreen calibre that the others struggle to match. Nevertheless this story, which is clearly so personal to the 37-year-old actor’s own journey, must be told. It opens a door for trans cinema in all its forms, whether exploring romance, family drama or the revolutionary act of being.

Just For You