Belgian director Tim Mielants already has an impressive number of episodes in television series on his record. 'Patrick' is his first feature film for the big screen and it is clear the director's effort to liberate himself off the pattern of the fixed formats and themes specific to television shows. The result is a strange and original film, sprinkled with many signs of directorial talent, but which at left me a bit puzzled about what it desired to convey. Of course, Tim Mielants may just have intended to demonstrate his potential, or it might have been me missing some deep meaning buried in inaccessible metaphors. Or is it some Belgian existential spleen? I suggest that you watch the movie and decide.
'Patrick' (or 'De Patrick' in the original version) is the story of a confrontation with mourning. Or maybe it's the story of a lost hammer. Both variants are equally possible, and some more. The story takes place in a summer vacation resort where the vast majority of guests practice nudism. As a result the viewers are permanently confronted with the images of naked or almost naked bodies, but without any sexual connotation. The visual shock works for about five minutes, after which the nudity becomes as trivial as is probably the custom in such a holiday resort. The hero of the film, Patrick, is the janitor of the resort and the son of the owners. His father dies, a death not too unexpected, because he was seriously ill, but Patrick seems rather affected by the lack of one of the hammers in his tool kit, used to create elegant, beautifully finished wooden chairs, worthy the work of select designers. Is this obsessive search of the hammer a way to deal with grief? Is Patrick affected by any mental condition? Or is he just a simple boy who is incapable of communicating, who has not had the time in his 38 years of life to know the world? Or maybe he is doing the most logical thing of all. After all the father's death is irreversible, but the missing hammer can be found, and then his world order is - to the possible extent - restored. The answer is left to the viewers, I have not been able to reach any conclusion.
Patrick's role is played by Kevin Janssens, an actor who also comes with an extensive television experience. His character is closed on itself, but despite the lack of communication or perhaps because of it, he manages to generate empathy. The rest of the distribution contributes to the creation of a strange, slightly absurd atmosphere. The practice of nudism has as an 'ideological' purpose the elimination of social barriers, but the the more naked the characters are, the more anti-socially they behave. What would have been left of the story if the action had not taken place in a nudism village? The story manages to catch the attention for most of the time, oscillating between social satire with absurd and grotesque nuances, and police mystery with hints of horror. There are many interesting elements in Tim Mielants' film, including some scenes in which the nature of the Ardennes with the sun hardly creeping through the trees of dizzying verticality plays an important role. At least one scene, that of the funerals, has a wonderful cinematic beauty. 'Patrick' announces, I hope, the career of a talented director. I hope that he will also find consistent stakes in the subjects of his upcoming films, in order to harness this potential.