Young Hearts


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Young Hearts
"The film works as well as it does because of the central pairing of Goussens and De Saeger, whose shared glances and stray touches work on an emotional level."

This coming-of-age drama gently probes the insecurities experienced by a teenager as he explores his sexuality while, thankfully, not representing him as some sort of tragic figure as is still so frequently the case in cinema. It may be a little sentimental at the edges, but the heart of Anthony Schatteman’s film is in the right place.

Elias (Lou Goossens) lives with his mum (Emilie De Roo), dad (Geert Van Rampelberg) and older brother in the Dutch countryside. Life is fairly unremarkable, save for the fact his dad is a semi-famous singer (and if there’s one thing this film might make you think is tragic, it’s the state of Belgian pop music). Generally speaking, Elias kicks about with his gang of pals, including his sort-of girlfriend Valerie (Saar Rogiers) in between visits to the farm his grandad (Dirk Van Dijck) owns.

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Into this mix arrives Alexander (Marius De Saeger), a new neighbour from across the street of the same age. Soon Alexander is adopted into Elias’s friend group but there’s a spark between them that begins to raise questions in Elias’s mind. Interestingly, they are questions that Alexander, who is at home with his own sexuality and has previously had a boyfriend, doesn’t share. Schatteman approaches this conundrum from a romantic angle - the teacher talks of “courtly love” to clue us in but it’s the sort of first love longing that a thousand Sweet Dreams books have been built upon.

The foundation between the youngsters is built upon friendship not lust and Schatteman also delicately handles the other relationships in their group of mates to show that, for all these kids, it's their day-to-day interactions that are the most important.

A subplot involving Elias’s dad’s lack of awareness of his son’s life is the closest thing to an antagonist the film gets but even he is, essentially, a good egg. Rather it’s Elias’s own inner conflict that provides the tension for the film as he grapples with what he sees as society's expectations - and, of course, those of Valerie.

Schatteman again handles this delicately, so that, in fact, those around Elias are pretty much non-judgemental about the whole thing, it’s his own fears that are what are really holding him back. The film works as well as it does because of the central pairing of Goussens and De Saeger, whose shared glances and stray touches work on an emotional level. The older members of the cast also dovetail well with the ensemble, particularly Van Dijck as a grandad who sees the pain of his loss about to be reflected in his grandson if he’s not very careful. Warm and life-affirming, teenagers who sense a kindred spirit in 14-year-old Elias (Lou Goussens, who we are likely to see a lot more of after this soulful performance) could do a lot worse than take on board its positive message of being true to yourself.

Reviewed on: 17 Feb 2024
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A 14-year-old boy feels attracted to his new neighbour, Alexander. Soon he realises that he's truly in love for the first time, but interactions with his friends and family bring more questions than answers.

Director: Anthony Schatteman

Writer: Anthony Schatteman

Starring: Lou Goossens, Marius De Saeger, Geert Van Rampelberg, Emilie De Roo, Dirk van Dijck

Year: 2024

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Belgium


BIFF 2024
IO 2024

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