Program 32: Just Friends (Gewoon Vrienden)
Directed by Ellen Smit
Joris, blond and addicted to his gym routine, is so handsome that he could easily work as a model. But something is not right – there is a hole in him, unresolved damage from his father’s death when he was a boy. Joris spends day after day by himself, riding his motorcycle through the empty countryside, playing with his drone, looking down at the world as if looking for answers in his life.
His mother’s grief takes the form of a drunken disaster, escaping via booze, shopping, and plastic surgery. And when the family has to finally reclaim the urn containing the father’s ashes (years after his death), everyone refuses to take responsibility for keeping or scattering them.
Meanwhile in Amsterdam, Yad is partying hard in the gay club scene – until his partying almost costs him his life and he retreats to his hometown to get back on track. Taking a job helping the elderly, Yad befriends Joris’s grandmother and soon discovers sexy Joris trimming her hedge.
At first introverted Joris resists, but Yad won’t give up. After some flirtatious texting, they begin to date, taking long rides on Joris’s motorcycle, Yad teaching Joris how to windsurf and the two men bonding over favorite songs. But Yad’s strict Middle Eastern mother does not approve of the relationship, or of Yad’s lack of ambition, and Joris’s grief emerges as erratic fits of anger, driving Yad away. Can they face their inner demons and rebuild their romance?
This beautifully shot film combines comedy and drama, all the while pointing out that love reveals wounds as much as it may heal them. As Joris’s wise grandmother advises, “Love can’t be controlled, it controls you.” And as the characters discover, learning how to face the past can be the best way to live life in the present.
— J. O’Neill
AWARDS & ACCOLADES
- AUDIENCE AWARD, BEST FEATURE – Mix Milano Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – Frameline San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – Roze Filmdagen Amsterdam LGBTQ Film Festival
- OFFICIAL SELECTION – Taiwan Int’l Queer Film Festival