Tim Mielants’ feature debut is a beautifully shot, frequently silly and quietly affecting Flemish drama
Written by Jonathan Hatfull
Even nudists have something to hide, as the eponymous hero of Tim Mielants’ Patrick discovers on his hunt for his missing hammer in this frequently silly and quietly affecting Flemish drama.
Patrick, played by Kevin Janssens, is a shy, retiring 38-year-old with a passion for carpentry who works for his gruff father Rudy at the nudist campsite in the beautiful forests of the Ardennes. When Rudy dies, Patrick throws all his energy into finding the person responsible for taking his hammer. His hunt for the truth will unearth lingering conflicts and emotions violently to light.
The film’s playfulness is immediately apparent in its blend of gorgeous scenery, personal tragedy and parade of middle aged full-frontal nudity, but Mielants (a veteran of Legion and The Terror making his feature directorial debut) and co-writer Benjamin Sprengers sensibly keep the tone fairly low-key. There’s no judgement or commentary on the campers’ preferences, rather a wry commentary on how even people who are that comfortable in their own skin still can’t really express their innermost fears and desires.
Our hero is told early in the film that he’s using the missing hammer to distract himself from his father’s death but that truth bomb is presented as an act of cruelty, delivered by a character who’s keeping plenty of her own hurtful secrets. The film understands that Patrick is working through something and that he needs to do it in his own way.
It’s not all about reaching a healthier emotional place, however. There is plenty of humour derived not only from Patrick’s determination but in how seriously everyone, from the campers to the hardware store clerk to the local policeman, treats the case of the missing carpentry tool. There’s a pretty spectacular and surprisingly violent fight sequence set in a camper, a nasty power struggle for control of the campsite, and a supporting turn from Jemaine Clement as an affably self-obsessed rock star. It’s also beautifully shot, which won’t come as any surprise to anyone who’s seen Legion, as Mielants and cinematographer Frank van den Eeden fill the screen with warm colours before bringing on the encroaching darkness.
Patrick is perhaps a slightly hard sell: a tragic comedy about grief and repression and a thriller where almost everyone just wants to tell the hero how sorry they are for his loss. But it’s also deeply loveable, from the little details to the grand emotional swell of its finale.
Patrick is released in select cinemas and on demand from 20 November. More details here.
Director: Tim Mielants
Screenwriter: Tim Mielants, Benjamin Sprengers
Cast: Kevin Janssens, Hannah Hoekstra, Jemaine Clement, Pierre Bokma, Ariane Van Vliet
Running time: 97 minutes