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BERLINALE 2024 Generation

Review: Young Hearts

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- BERLINALE 2024: Anthony Schatteman’s first film is a luminous coming-of-age tale in an autobiographical vein about a young boy discovering love

Review: Young Hearts
Marius De Saeger and Lou Goossens in Young Hearts

Having turned heads with his short films Kiss Me Softly, Follow Me and Petit Ami, Anthony Schatteman is now unveiling his first fiction feature film Young Hearts [+see also:
interview: Anthony Schatteman
film profile
]
- a queer romance for all audiences, so already unique in that sense - in the Generation KPlus section of the 74th Berlinale. While world cinema has witnessed a flourishing of queer love stories and an increase in stories, models and outlooks on love and the world, it’s rarer when it comes to young people’s films to find non-tragic stories about gay characters who aren’t so much fighting against external obstacles in contexts where homophobia is the norm, as against inner hurdles.

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Elias is 13 years old. He leads a fulfilling life in his small village with his loving albeit not entirely functional family (his father, a middle of the road singer of local fame, is obsessed with the success enjoyed by his last song), surrounded by a group of warm and funny friends. He’s got something going on with Valérie, because, when you’re 13, you have to have a girlfriend - that’s what other people do, anyway. That is, until the day when radiant and free-thinking youngster Alexander - a young man who doesn’t hide his fancy for love or for boys - moves from the city into the house opposite Elias’s.

Despite the fact he’s being raised within a caring environment, Elias feels totally confused by the feelings growing inside of him, unfamiliar as he is with the codes around love and any kind of example which would help him to understand his attraction to boys. So he says nothing and silences his heart, until implosion leads to explosion. It’s in the form of his grandfather that Elias eventually finds a listening ear, which helps him to live his love freely and to welcome it for the gift that it is.

Driven by a desire to make an optimistic and heartening, family-focused film, Anthony Schatteman uses the devices of melodrama to convey his larger-than-life love story, employing bright and colourful images, music which doesn’t shy away from emotions, incredibly effective acting (not least the performances of the two young heroes, Lou Goossens and Marius De Saeger) and the obligatory mad dash towards the object of affections. These many aspects of love-story language are remixed with sincerity and joy to offer up new stories which explore different ways of loving and being loved, taking care to remain accessible to younger audiences who aren’t yet ready to contend with sexuality. Because, at the end of the day, Elias is still a child who’s playing at being in love (like when he and Valérie borrow the costume from Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliette for a fancy dress party), performing what he believes is expected of him before he’s even discovered love. His encounter with Alexander, but also with his gentle and loving grandfather who’s in the throes of grief following the death of his wife, helps him to find and to love his place in the world. In all, Young Hearts is an authentic coming-of-age tale which enriches the existing body of family films with a wonderful queer love story.

Schatteman’s movie is produced by Polar Bear (Belgium) in co-production with Family Affair Films (the Netherlands) and Kwassa Films (Belgium). International sales are entrusted to Films Boutique.

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(Translated from French)

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