Following on from Ewan’s post last week I thought I would also review another film from Aberdeen’s beloved Belmont Filmhouse’s shiny new streaming service, this time 2019’s Patrick directed by Tim Meilants. A black comedy set on a Belgian naturist camp, this film reveals all but also shrouds a great deal in mystery. Once you get past the immediacy of the nudity that at times borders on surrealism and settle into the film’s broader themes of loss and self-discovery you’re rewarded with a film that’s deliriously entertaining as well as thought-provoking – such a rarity in storytelling that deserves to be praised.
Patrick (Kevin Janssens), a 38 year old handyman, is the star of the film. He’s not much for talking, shying away from conversation, doing bits and bobs around his father’s camp and caring for his elderly parents. He dabbles in furniture making in his impeccably tidy workshop, and he’s a well-known face around the campsite, being the one who tends the reception. Trouble is brewing, however. His father’s health is deteriorating and some of the long-time residents at the campsite are displeased with how things are being run. Early in the film his dad passes away, and he is left to inherit the campsite along with its many woes and critics, but this isn’t Patrick’s main concern.
People express feelings of grief in different ways but Patrick seems more bothered about the glaring, missing gap in his tool collection than the loss of his father, as when he returns to his workshop one morning the indent where his prized hammer should be found is empty. And so begins a wild goose chase to recover it, one that will take him throughout the campsite as he attempts to retrace the hammer’s journey and find its whereabouts. Before he sets out on his investigation a friend and local police officer cautions him: “Use method and logic to find it […] And, above all, don’t let yourself be guided by your emotions. Never.”
The search quickly becomes for Patrick a source of total obsession, where it’s clear that nothing will get in the way of his determination to find his hammer. Around him though, people have other priorities. His mother is grief stricken, and whilst the residents have their sympathies for Patrick they have more pressing concerns, chief among them the running of the campsite which they doubt Patrick’s competence to carry out in his father’s absence. A mutiny is stirring, and one of the camp’s more ambitious members has spied an opportunity to oust Patrick and take over.
The film is honestly so bizarre, the way it fearlessly interweaves themes of grief and conflict into a story of such total insignificance as a lost hammer makes for such an offbeat, irreverently funny tale that’s awkward, heartfelt and most importantly original. The nudity aspect of the storytelling seems to amplify the highs and the lows of the relatively unimportant campsite politics: arguments and fistfights take on a whole other level of slapstick humour whilst moments of intimacy genuinely feel touching in a way that they might not have had the characters been clothed. If you’ll allow me to put my wanky film student hat on for just a moment, it’s like the nudity doesn’t just expose their unshaven pubic hair, wonky breasts, pot bellies and shrivelled willies, but also the true essence of their character is laid bare before you too.
Okay – wanky hat back off again. Cheers. I’ll conclude this post by saying that I really think this is one of the best comedies I’ve seen. There’s something about the tone of it that makes it really special. I think if you’re reading this and you’re a fan of films such as The Death of Stalin or surrealist escapades like The Lobster then Patrick will be right up your alley. I think we’ve all surely experienced a time where our frustrations or sadness gets channelled into a tunnel-visioned quest where we can’t admit defeat, and I love this film for its boldness, its weirdness and yes, its nudity. I’m going to plug Belmont Filmhouse’s streaming service again because I haven’t been let down by any of its films so far and it’s such a fantastic way to support a local, Aberdonian business during Covid with restrictions ongoing. You can check out Patrick here, available to rent for just £4.49. Have at it and we’ll see you next week for another movie recommendation.
Words by Charlie Forbes