"Close to You" is a highly anticipated film representing a significant milestone in Elliot Page's career, marking his return to the big screen after publicly announcing his transition in 2020. Starring Page in the role of Sam, a transgender individual who embarks on a poignant journey back to his hometown, recently premiered at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.
The 37-year-old actor said that he was so nervous making a movie heavily reliant on improvisation, but Savage created a safe space for the entire cast to explore their characters.
It allowed us to feel free, limitless and dive into the material, and it worked,” he said. “So much of this movie is about connections, what it means to be human, and what it means to feel seen. And I imagine those themes resonate with most people.
Sam has been away from Cobourg, a small town located a few hours from bustling Toronto, for several years. His return is fraught with nerves and anticipation as he grapples with the prospect of facing his family and friends after having undergone a profound transformation allowing him to live his true self.
During his journey back to his hometown, Sam (Elliot Page) has an unexpected encounter with an old school friend, Katherine (Hillary Baack). Katherine hasn't seen Sam since his transition — emotions surge when they reunite.
Their lives have taken different trajectories since their shared high school days. Katherine reveals that she is married with two children and has returned to their hometown to embrace family life. In contrast, Sam is single and content with his life in the city, sharing a rented house with a friend. Nevertheless, seeing Katherine again rekindles dormant feelings that both have harboured for years.
Directed by Dominic Savage, "Close to You" navigates the complexities of presenting one's authentic self to one's family, a daunting and emotionally charged endeavour. Sam's primary concern is not about being accepted as a transgender individual but rather about the potentially hurtful comments and remarks he might encounter from those around him. The film touches on the impact of words and the lasting scars they can leave, challenging the adage that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."
While "Close to You" explores the theme of a family reunion, it also dedicates significant screen time to examining the evolving relationship between Sam and Katherine. The chemistry between them is undeniably electrifying, evident from the moment their eyes meet, conveying the depth of their shared history. However, Katherine's character remains somewhat enigmatic, and their conversations are cloaked in vague references to their past, laden with an intimate shorthand that only two people who have lived through those experiences can comprehend fully.
"Close to You" poignantly captures the transgender experience, shedding light on the struggles that individuals face in their journey toward self-acceptance and authenticity.
One pivotal moment occurs during a heated argument between Sam and his mother, where she emphasizes the significance of family as the most important thing in life. Sam's response challenges this notion, asserting that there is more to life than seeking validation and acceptance from others. The film beautifully conveys the idea that the purest form of love emanates from within oneself, a powerful message that resonates deeply.
In essence, "Close to You" serves as a compelling exploration of identity, acceptance, and the pursuit of happiness, with Elliot Page delivering a remarkable performance in his first major film role since publicly embracing his true self as a transgender individual.