29 September, 2008
Dagen zonder lief (With Friends Like These) (2007)
The past is another country...
Felix Van Groeningen (Steve+Sky (2004)) brings a determinedly un-sentimental perspective to this tale of friends re-united - combined with Arne Sierens' screenplay, the lives of a disparate group of college friends grown older but not necessarily wiser are disrupted by the re-appearance of one of their number, Zwarte Kelly (Wine Dierickx), who has come back to Belgium, ostensibly to see her mum, but who may also have a hidden agenda.
While Niek (Koen de Graeve), Blonde Kelly (An Miller), Frederic (Jeroen Perceval) and Kurt (Pieter Genard) all seem very happy to see her, the recent suicide of one of their friends, Patrick, still casts a pall over all...
It's about growing up and getting on with it, and the emotional toll that this takes - Van Groeningen wisely opts not to make any of the chracters either heroes or villains, just people tring to get their shit together from day to day.
Dierickx shines as 'Black' Kelly (who has, in fact, turned blonde), delivering a perfomance that is at once sensitive and stubborn while Genard as Kurt (who had a relationship with Kelly back in the day) is also powerful as a man on the brink of his own breakdown, despite his seemingly happy, contented life as a homeowner and young father.
It's interesting that, as the rest of Flemish film world seems still to be desperately in search of a meaningful identity, With Friends Like These seems to have achieved exactly that, in detailing the lives, loves and losses of five people who are also in search of meaning.
Overall moral? There isn't one, really, save perhaps that nothing lasts for ever, not even friendship. Sounds depressing, I know, but check it out - there is much warmth and joy to be had too.
100 mins. In Dutch and French.