Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Tim Mielants's quirky comedy is shot through with melancholy and holds a deep affection for its earnest hero even when he seems to be the butt of everybody's jokes." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Patrick (Kevin Janssens) is a quiet, unassuming kind of guy. He works alongside his parents, managing the nudist colony where he has spent his whole life, and in his spare time he carves handsome wooden furniture. He's the man the guests turn to to provide everything from repairs to arbitration to sexual favours. He never complains and he's happy to drift along with life. But two things are about to happen to Patrick. Firstly, his father is going to die. Secondly - but rather more urgently - he's going to discover that one of his hammers is missing.

This is no ordinary hammer. It's part of a set. It's very difficult, if not impossible, to replace. Whilst viewers will be wondering if the sudden death and the missing hammer could be related, Patrick busies himself with wandering around the site trying to track the latter down. Meanwhile, plots are already hatching amongst the largely unsympathetic guests, who don't consider him a worthy successor to his father. As his mother grows more and more emotionally distant, Patrick faces the prospect of having his inheritance stolen from him and perhaps even losing his home.

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On the wall, the remaining hammers hang in a neat line. The absence of the middle one is glaring. Until it's restored, how can the world be set to rights?

Tim Mielants's quirky comedy, which screened at Fantasia 2020, is shot through with melancholy and holds a deep affection for its earnest hero even when he seems to be the butt of everybody's jokes. Only a couple of the established guests stand up for him - and one newcomer, the beautiful blond girlfriend of a celebrity who has decided to take a break there. Trained in law, she's just getting to the point of thinking about everything she's given up to be with her man, and is wondering if it was worth it. A tender friendship forms between her and Patrick, acting as a reminder that whilst he might seem odd, he's ultimately dealing with the same kind of problems as everybody else.

If you're a fan of mysteries, there's quite a bit to unravel here, with one revelation after another emerging in the course of Patrick's quest - and not just about the hammer. The police are developing their own suspicions, with the local chief, who seems to know Patrick well, trying to look out for him as the investigation develops. Meanwhile, the sun keeps shining and the beautiful forest landscape of the Ardennes works its magic. The various naked inhabitants of the colony conceal their secrets as best they can.

Everybody deals with grief differently, but anyone who has experience bereavement will find something to connect with in Patrick. Janssens' stoic, dignified performance easily balances out the absurdities of the situation. After watching it, you'll find yourself wanting to go and check that your own hammers are safe.

Reviewed on: 27 Aug 2020
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Patrick lives with his parents on a naturist campsite. When his dad dies and he finds himself in charge he has other things on his mind... namely a quest for his lost hammer.
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Director: Tim Mielants

Writer: Tim Mielants, Benjamin Sprengers

Starring: Jemaine Clement, Kevin Janssens, Hannah Hoekstra, Jan Bijvoet, Bouli Lanners, Pierre Bokma, Jean-BenoƮt Ugeux, Frank Vercruyssen, Katelijne Damen, Peter Gorissen, Tine Van den Wyngaert, Josse De Pauw, Janne Desmet, Ariane Van Vliet, Louis van der Waal

Year: 2019

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Belgium

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