Berlinale 2024: Young Hearts (2024)

(c) Thomas Nolf/ Polar Bear

Heart-warming coming-of-age story Young Hearts is award-winning Anthony Schatteman’s feature debut at the Berlinale.

First Love and How to Survive it

by Alexa Dalby

Young Hearts

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

If Lukas Dhont’s Close was dark (and it certainly was tragic), Anthony Schatteman’s Young Hearts is light. Comparisons are probably inevitable and this film is the reverse side of the coin: Young Hearts is a (possibly deceptively) heart-warming first feature.

But, as the catchy opening song performed at a school event by Luk Montero (Geert Van Rampelberg), Elias’s father, unambiguously tells us, it’s first-love time. There is much to resolve first.

As the film starts, young Elias (Lou Goossens) falls for his new neighbour, handsome Alexandre (Marius De Saeger), and starts to ignore Valérie (Saar Rogiers). The unbearable peer pressure at school of Close is not shown and maybe there is more acceptance of the boys’ relationship.

At first, the two films look much the same: two boys, happy in each other’s company, cycling across the flat Netherlands fields in the sunlit days of an endless summer holiday. But there’s a significant difference which becomes apparent later.

The boys are the same age but former city-boy Alexandre seems more mature and worldly. What’s more, he can speak French. Elias seems quite young for his age, though he wants to grow up quickly, and doesn’t understand his new feelings.

When the boys go to Brussels together, a drag artiste sings to them in French about loving life. Misunderstandings ensue back home. Luckily, help is at hand: Elias has a wise and understanding (Dutch- and French-speaking) grandfather (Dirk Van Dijck).

The long sunny summer days spent in the sun, or bathing in quiet lakes, are luminously idyllic and beautifully shot. The musical soundtrack is soft and romantic.

Young Hearts is billed as a family film. The boys’ performances are outstanding. The mothers are not dominant characters as in Close, the emphasis is on the males of the family. It could be very helpful in finding themselves for uncomfortable European teens.

I wonder how much the film is influenced by Candi Staton’s iconic 1976 disco hit Young Hearts Run Free?

Young Hearts World Premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in the Generation Kplus section on 17 February 2024. Schatterman directed Irish series Northern Lights for Lionsgate. His youth series Panna was released in 2021, airing on for SBS Belgium, and his series 2de Zit played Belgian streaming platform Streamz. International sales are by Films Boutique and Kinepolis Film Distribution, and international representation by The PR Factory.

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