As his first full-length feature film, director Tim Mielants has crafted a quirky midlife crisis dramedy simply titled Patrick. As a character piece on the titular protagonist, Patrick delivers some fabulous offerings in talent and technical aspects, but falls short on overall impact and message. It screened at Fantastic Fest, and the reasons are obvious, it features a TON of nudity and a fantastic fight scene between two nude men that leaves you giggling and gasping on the same breath. This type of nutty content is welcome fodder to the signature whackiness of some Fantastic Fest screenings, and the movie is just strong enough to make the cut.
Patrick, played beautifully by Kevin Janssens is a quiet man, suffering from arrested development who helps his ailing father and blind mother maintain their nudist summer campgrounds. His character exhibits behavior associated with Asberger’s Syndrome, although the movie doesn’t expand on any specific reasons for his textbook autistic traits. Patrick has difficulty communicating, listening, and creating normal boundaries natural to most of us, so when his father passes, he seems to short-circuit even more and develops a laser focus obsession on a missing hammer.
The death of his father brings about necessary change to Patrick’s life and he must come to terms with a new role in his community. This is a coming of middle-age story where Patrick must figure out his own identity as a late-thirties adult without his two elderly parents to care for.
The movie is dense with nudity, and even after the first few minutes, you never quite get used to it. The nudity does offer a powerful message to the film. It puts perspective on all the characters issues. The adults in the community come off as naked children, struggling for acknowledgement, position, and affirmation of their foibles. And Patrick must navigate the demands and emotional outbursts of his neighbors, while he himself struggles to make amends with his father’s death, and of course, the whereabouts of his missing hammer.
The film carries a subtle deadpan humor. The introduction of Germain Clemens character, Dustin, a philandering egomaniac, in the earlier parts of the film give the impression that things are going to get really funny, but that is not the case. Clemens’ charisma is painfully underutilized in the film and he plays a minor, almost forgettable role. The rest of the movie delivers a few chuckles here and there, mostly about the frustrating ironies that come up in Patrick’s dogged search for his hammer. The story could have allowed for genuine connection between characters, but the writers decided against this in favor of making Patrick truly antisocial. This is true to form for those who do have Asberger’s so I’ll give them that, but it would have made for better story-telling and character development.
Technically, the film is shot gorgeously! The cinematography is playful and helps the story along immensely. The previously mentioned fight scene does help to redeem the overall dryness of the film’s style, and it’s the genius camera work that give it it’s impact. It’s a shocking change of style for the film, and much like Clemens’ Dustin, you wish there was more of this in the movie.
Carried mostly by the wonderful performances of all the cast, particularly Kevin Janssens, and moved along by beautiful camera work, Patrick is a good movie albeit a bit off balance. It could have had the potential to be a powerful film, but it needed more meat to match the dense layers of quirk and subtlety. However, as a first time feature film, I think it’s quite an accomplishment and an entertaining one at that.
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