Writer/director Lukas Dhont’s “Close” (A24), winner of the Grand Prix at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, is also Belgium’s entry for the Oscar’s Best International Feature category.

Not only is it an Oscar-worthy International Feature, but also one deserving of a Best Picture nomination.

Set in the Belgian countryside, “Close” is a moving portrait of friendship. Childhood besties Leo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are as close as they can be. At 13, they think nothing of sleeping in the same bed, practically spooning. They do everything together. They make each other laugh. Leo is supportive of oboist Rémi’s musical ambitions. Their families know each other and Rémi’s mother Sophie (Émilie Dequenne) refers to Leo as the “son of her heart.”

At the start of the school year, Leo and Rémi are as inseparable as they have been all summer. One thinks nothing of resting his head on the shoulder of the other. But they don’t realize they’re being scrutinized by the terrible social hierarchy that dominates middle school kids their age. A gossipy female classmate even goes so far as to ask them if they’re “together” because they “look very close.”

Of the two, Leo seems the most bothered by the questions. Not long after that, Leo is bullied by a male classmate who calls him a “faggot.” In subtle ways, Leo begins to pull away from Rémi. When Rémi tries calling Leo on the change in his behavior, he denies that anything is different.

But at the next sleepover they have, Leo doesn’t share Rémi’s bed. In the morning this leads to more questions, and then some roughhousing that turns unexpectedly violent. Back at school, Leo continues to distance himself, ultimately leading to a confrontation between him and Rémi that turns violent.

As Leo begins to hang out with a new group of athletic friends, even joining the hockey team, Rémi is set adrift. And then, as one character puts it “something has happened.” Upon returning from a school field trip from which Rémi was absent, the students learn that Rémi has died by suicide.

It’s a shocking moment, as much to Leo and the other characters as it is to the audience. Following this revelation we watch Leo, his family, and Rémi’s family come to terms with tragedy and loss. This is a multiple-tissue movie, so be prepared to go through at least one box.

Not to diminish the impact or the beauty of “Close,” but it’s a little like preaching to the converted. LGBT folks are well aware of the hell that is middle school and being 13, and what a treacherous game of survival it is. Ideally, “Close” should be required viewing for Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and the entire membership of the cult known as Moms for Liberty. In French and Dutch with English subtitles.

Rating: A-

Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.