Suicide and feigned identity in The Friend
by Aurore Engelen
Micha Lewinsky’s Swiss title The Friend [+see also:
film profile] screened in competition this week at the Brussels European Film Festival. In the film, Emil (Philippe Graber) resembles an old bachelor albeit he is only in his early 20s. A confirmed loner, trapped in a destructive relationship with his lonely, widowed mother, he develops an obsession for Larissa, a young bar singer with a husky voice and a guitar that laments life’s sorrows.
Emil’s pursuit of the young woman unexpectedly pays off when Larissa asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of her family, "in case something bad happens". Surprisingly passive before this scarcely veiled suicide note, the young man agrees to the game.
Immediately adopted by Larissa’s family after her death – as they desperately cling to anything that will bring them closer to the young woman’s elusive memory – Emil also has to confront his burning secret as well as his awakening love for Nora, the younger sister.
Exploring a frequent theme in film – that of feigned identity – Lewinsky hasn’t chosen easy subject matter. Larissa’s depression and suicide leave her family feeling lost and consumed by doubt while Nora wavers between jealousy (once again her elder sibling is the centre of everyone’s attention) and anger.
Although Emil displays a total lack of charisma, his awkwardness, quasi-transparency and passivity give rise to refreshing touches of humour, and enable the devastated family members to put the pieces of their life back together.
The Friend is not remarkable for its formal innovation, but the film deftly combines humour and emotion. This serious comedy won the prize for Best Feature at the Swiss Film Awards held in Soleure in April. Having received four nominations, the film also picked up the Best Emerging Actor Award for its young star Graber.
(Translated from French)
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