We’ve all lost something from time and time and tried to retrace our steps. A lot of the times it’s little things, like keys, or your phone – you walk back through your own memories, but ultimately you realize the hopelessness of doing so, and you conclude your search. Then you turn around and your keys are on your desk. This is a surprisingly good way to surmise the journey of Patrick.
Directed by Tim Mielants (Peaky Blinders), and co-written by himself and Benjamin Sprengers, Patrick follows the titular character in the aftermath of his father’s death, gripped by an obsession to find his favourite hammer, seemingly indifferent to the grief and loss plagued by the rest of the naturist campsite he occupies.
It seems obvious to say, but Patrick is a weird film. It has this strange slight to it, an element of the absurd or the strange always seems to accompany us. From the setting of a nudist campsite, therefore creating an incredible mosaic of bodies wandering to and thro, to the coldness of our main character as he progresses backwards through his hammer’s traces, unafflicted by the emotion that tears through the camp from his father’s demise. Kevin Janssens performs an isolated loneliness to Patrick without saying much or even doing much – it’s all in his face, and his stoicism. In an interview, he explained that Patrick “knows what he wants but he doesn’t know how to confront his feelings.” Unable to confront his own complex emotions of grief, he instead finds solace in the remarkably banal quest to reclaim his favorite hammer – it’s easy to see that this isn’t really just about the hammer.
There’s an inherent vulnerability to Patrick, beyond the clear metaphor of the nudity – everyone in the campsite is vulnerable in a sense, but they all still hide feelings and secrets from one another. Patrick is the outlier in this way – he’s innately truthful. He reveals truth in an environment where hiding seems impossible, and yet it still occurs. Part of the vulnerability that is expressed through Janssens’ performance is the depiction of grief constantly present in Patrick – looking at him, he seems frozen in time, stuck within the moment between emotional states, merely powered by a logical need to solve the mystery of his hammer.
The obsession over the hammer is a great strategy to explore the random afflictions that grief can strike us down with – we often latch onto something inexplicably simple, or even boring, in the hopes that it can ground us from the impossible fall of being hit by death. It’s evident that although this is a tragicomedy, grief is not something Mielants finds humor in: “The script appears as a comedy but I told my actors to act as if you are in a holocaust movie. This felt like the right way to tell this story.” While Mielants’ comments may seem a little outlandish, Patrick does feel incredibly personal and moving, in its own strange way. There are some innately understandable themes, existentialism, belonging, family – the film is inherently deceptive through its initial introduction, but as you grow used to the nudity and the alternative lifestyle, you quickly come to understand the personal journey that can be recognized.
Patrick is a remarkably emotional film, exploring the devastating effects of grief, and the desperate struggle to retain normality, holding onto the last semblance of a life pre-loss. It doesn’t mock nor underestimate the different kinds of people we are as a species, and reflects an interesting mosaic of humanity.
Patrick is out on digital platforms Friday 20th November.