By Adam Ray Palmer
The first premiere of the 54th Karlovy Vary Film Festival for me was the Belgian film, Patrick starring Kevin Janssens, Pierre Bokma and Ariane Van Vilet.
Based on the director’s previous recollections of nudist camps and activities, Tim Mielants (director) co-writes with Benjamin Sprengers…
The film focuses around 38-year-old Patrick (Janssens) who lives at home with his parents Rudy (Josse De Pauw) and Nelly (Katelijne Damen), both of whom are disabled – his mother being blind and his father having severe breathing difficulties. They all live on a naturist campsite with other fellow visitors who enjoy flaunting their ‘freedom’ shall we say.
One unexpected day, Patrick has the worst news on two counts. His father passes away after a fall, but worse than that, he has lost his favourite hammer. The long-term camp guests want Patrick to get grip of his life and look after the site, but he can only worry about his hammer.
His search for his hammer becomes an elongated quest as we meet different campers around the forest. We, the audience, then get to follow a sort of ‘whodunnit’ saga alongside Patrick as we meet Rockstar Dustin Apollo (Jemaine Clement), a man so arrogant and of course cheating on the innocent and caring Nathalie (Hannah Hoekstra). We also meet policeman Mon (Bouli Lanners) who is like a father figure to Patrick as he cares for what happens to him post his father’s death. And finally, we also meet Herman (Bokma) and Liliane (Van Vilet), a power-crazed couple who want to run the campsite at any cost.
Mielants’s take on a naturist campsite is certainly interesting. You can tell that he was brought up on original memories of a nudist camp as there’s some real juvenile comedic scenes throughout that get some big laughs, but he also fills sequences with emotion and more tender moments. His tragicomedy style elevates this film to a better level than just a weird, easy comedy.
The mourning of Patrick’s lost hammer is a great metaphor for his father’s death. A scene involving the policeman, Mon and Patrick where he is consoled as Mon tells him “I’m sorry you will never see your hammer again”. It’s the perfect analogy of this film – it’s amusing and affectionate.
Patrick is certainly a film of strength, a will to carry on no matter what and persevere when it gets tough. But at times, the movie does lose momentum in the more candid and stuffier scenes which frustrates as some sequences are really top drawer. In a nutshell, if a random Belgian film somehow shoehorns Jemaine Clement into a role, it’s probably at least worth your intrigue.
Cineroom’s rating: 3.5 Stars
Patrick is yet to receive distribution rights for the UK but keep an eye out for later this year.