Tout contre Léo (Close to Leo) Reviews
The oldest of four boys, 21-year old Leo breaks the news to his family that he is HIV+. The close-knit family closes in about him, trying to do what they can to help, while shielding the youngest brother, 12-year old Marcel, from the news. Meanwhile, Leo struggles to accept a life where he is severely limited by the disease.
There are several moral themes in this French-made film. There's the obvious theme of dealing with a family member who is not only gay, but infected. There's the moral quandary of whether to shield the youngest from the potential risk of losing the older brother he adores, which means keeping secrets and telling lies. There's the affection that each of them feel for each other. Oh, and the boyfriend that wrote beautiful love letters that Leo ignored for a year before realizing that he was sick and acknowledging that he was in love, only to be rejected for his failure to respond to those letters. And there's the question as to whether or not life is worth living with a life-long, incurable disease that must be treated with an army of medications.
The point is - this story is loaded with moral themes, and as much as it bothers me to say it, they don't always work well together. Each of the themes is credibly portrayed, in script and in the acting, but the story appears to struggle to accept them all as equals.
But this isn't a story about a terminal illness, or about how a young man, choosing to forgo medical treatment, deals with his own mortality. And the title character's sexuality is almost irrelevant.
This is a story of a young boy, Marcel (Yaniss Lespert), and how he relates to his family; an increasing resentment towards his mother (Marie Bunel) versus the idolisation of his eldest brother (Pierre Mignard), whom he, the imagery throughout the picture tells us, will grow to become.
The way in which Marcel relates to the males he interacts with gives the viewer an insight into what lays ahead for this particular child... Well, it's all said in the title.
Yes, it's this sort of clever filmmaking that really makes "Close to Leo" a notable entry in the queer cinema genré.
This was a great story, very sad, loving, scary in an emotional way, definitely worth a look - brings back memories of when I was the same age being shielded from family secrets (well so they thought).
I envied how much the family were so loving towards each other...