There is little to no speech in Dominic Savage’s Close to You for the first several minutes when we meet Elliot Page’s Sam. He wakes up in the cheap room he is renting in Toronto and prepares for what will be a difficult day ahead. However, for these early moments, simply spending time with this man as he goes about his routine is a breath of new air. He cooks toast with a lot of jam, which he subsequently jokes about as an indicator of his mental condition.

Page portrays this moment of humour and anguish masterfully, showing us so much about who this person is despite the fact that we have only just met him. There is a patience in this opening sequence that allows us to observe Sam’s concerns progressively come forth when we realise that he is going to visit his family for the first time since transitioning. Though the anticipated reunion looms large over the picture, it retains a delicate tone that seems optimistic. It’s a shame that most of what comes after lacks this level of nuance.

The anxiety from the family begins to bore down on Sam the moment he steps inside his boyhood home after taking a train trip from Toronto to Cobourg. Even his more well-meaning family members appear to seek something from him. Sometimes it is forgiveness for not being supportive of him during difficult times and for subsequent mistakes made in the present. In others, it explains why he left and who he is now.


None of this is something he owes them, but they continue to heap their burden on him. The whole situation is stressful in an overdone sense since Sam simply wants to be there for his father’s birthday as himself while everyone else badgers him. Even as he moves from room to room in the house, he is aware of the pain and expectations of everyone around him.

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Enter the kitchen? His sister’s husband from hell believes that now is the moment to approach Sam unexpectedly. Try sitting down for the family dinner? He’ll also follow you there and disturb you for no reason. If this seems familiar, it’s because it is throughout the great majority of its duration.

If you look closely, you can see a well-intentioned core to this, as Savage wishes to highlight how harsh and entitled cis people can be around a trans person who is simply trying to live. The problem is that it adopts an unrelentingly harsh tone that is terrible for both Sam and the spectator. While we are obviously supposed to experience this pain, much of it obscures who Sam is since he is repeatedly compelled to place himself second.

Even when family members express concern for him, it has little to do with him and everything to do with them. Much of this is by purpose, but Savage covers nothing else in terms of narrative area. A film in which Sam is continuously forced to face the weight of everyone else’s expectations is not executed in the manner the film believes it is as he gets swallowed up by them.

When this is shot with a roving camera and cuts that often break the flow of what could otherwise be a fascinating sequence, what appears to be a potentially revealing improvised technique becomes aimless.

If the film has a redeeming grace, it is a subplot involving someone Sam knew from high school who he encounters on the train voyage at the beginning. Without getting into too many specifics in order to protect the film’s most emotionally powerful part, there is a spark that we can feel in each of their eyes from the time they first meet.

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They elicit far more emotion than anything else in the primary thrust of the tale without even saying anything. Every time we leave the home to see these sequences, whether on a beach or at a cafe, it feels like the film is getting someplace. It just keeps pulling us back to the limits of the same familial talks.

Even when the patriarch delivers what is intended to be a speech that ends the contempt Sam has endured, it arrives far too late and goes far too swiftly to be of any significance. The film merely ends up seeming like it’s talking in circles, turning any escape from its fundamental concept into a little relief.

Page is a bright beacon throughout the chaotic event. Every action he makes adds something to the film that it will never be able to understand. Instead, it all fades away into clumsy dialogue sequences rather than compelling ones. When the din of the world dies down, there are moments that feel far more legitimately sublime and meditative.

If the film had allowed for more such sequences to investigate this topic, it may have been something far more profound. Unfortunately, this never happens, and the only emotion left is one of sadness at what could have been.