a film by Christophe Honoré
2002 | 90 mins | France
›› Close to Leo - Tout contre Léo / All against Leo
the ramifications of hiding the truth of AIDS.
Close to Leo by Christophe Honoré Prior to focusing his camera on a Man at (a) Bath, writer and director Christophe Honoré compellingly charted the heart-rendering effects of AIDS within a close-knit family, as seen through the eyes of a child.

Only Marcel is a twelve-year-old tired of being treated as the baby of the group and not just by his three older brothers, but by parents who have taken the decision to "protect him" from the devastating news of their eldest son's HIV positive diagnosis. Yet the ears of an ever curious child are everywhere and having accidentally overheard part of Léo's telling announcement, Marcel is well aware that something is gravely wrong with his brother. Yet with his mother increasingly unable to cope with the gravity of her son's illness and everyone else obsessed with tiptoeing around the issue, Marcel is determined that somehow the truth will out. And when an unexpected, if unlikely opportunity arises for Marcel to spend time with Léo in Paris, he seizes the moment. Only in asking questions on a subject that he's not supposed to know anything of, is Marcel about to learn some hard lessons on life and love?

Close to Leo by Christophe Honoré In a film in which a number of scenes detract from the central issue and make it all the more weaker as a result, Honoré has and to his credit, gone out of his way to create a differing cinematic take on the AIDS narrative, courtesy of building a film based upon the ramifications of hiding the truth and no more so, than a family seemingly unable to discuss three letters with their youngest child. Thankfully Yaniss Lespert is delightful in the emotional rollercoaster role of Marcel, even if the remarkably close bond between the brothers does at times walk an all too intimate, almost incestuous-like path, with hugs, kisses and sleepovers, a-plenty.

Only for all of its poignant parts and for a telemovie, a surprisingly frank scene of man-sex, troubling sections remain, including a chicken sequence that will undoubtedly outrage animal right groups, whilst Léo's irresponsible approach to his health and to that of others, is sure to cause alarm. Yet in a film in which Léo's "when I'm dead, it'll be too late" mindset is clearly not in keeping with the post '80s advances in HIV treatment and medication, Honoré keeps his most bizarre twist for the all too abrupt closing act, with the protective attitude to Marcel taken to another, and frankly unbelievable level. All of which equates to a touching, if at times at odds with reality work, albeit one that also makes for a strikingly different, heartfelt and beautifully performed piece, thanks largely to the vibrant interplay between the two leads, with Pierre Mignard particularly good in the difficult role of Léo, one that culminates in the and as expected, dramatic d'adieu.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the "moonlight swim" monty. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue 07.November.2011
starring: Yaniss Lespert / Marcel, Pierre Mignard / Léo, Marie Bunel / Mother, Rodolphe Pauly / Tristan,
Jérémie Lippmann / Pierrot, Dominic Gould / Father, Joana Preiss / Yvan's Mother,
Louis Gonzales / Yvan and Assaad Bouab as Aymeric.
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #441
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