“Ne Me Quitte Pas”, directed by Niels van Koevorden and Sabine Lubbe Bakker, takes place in the south of Belgium, where middle-aged Marcel and his slightly older friend, Bob Spaenhoven, struggle to overcome the hardships of life in a symbiotic relationship with each other and with their bottles of alcohol. This might sound tragic but the story is rather tragi-comic, a slapstick documentary that reminds one of Emir Kusturica’s films, with characters fitting archetypes and odd but funny turns of events.
The storyline is simple. Marcel’s wife finds another man and she decides to leave him after 16 years of marriage. Marcel is heartbroken. He makes a pact with Bob to commit suicide together. Bob knows the perfect place to put the plan into action, a tree in the forest, a place which makes him feel peaceful and serene, precisely how he wants to leave this world. “There starts the path to my tree of life,” he says while walking along with the camera to show this place of greatness. But in the spirit of all of their symbolic and melodramatic attempts, the walk ends with the discovery that the tree has been cut. This kind of misfortune finds the two at every step they take, like signature marks of their lives.
Marcel’s biggest fear is losing his children. Bob is already one step ahead of him. His son is estranged and hardly visits. Marcel’s children come visit him once a week and he wants his place to be welcoming for them. But the alcohol interferes, as usual. Everyone can empathize with a father’s love for his children but Marcel’s alcoholic trips enhance a feeling of predictability, and at the same time curiosity, about what’s going to happen next.
When, during a visit the children want to go to a local carnival, Marcel decides to bring them. Next, the camera follows the kids lined up behind him, wearing masks and walking through a crowd. Soon enough you realize that the masked crowd is not just any section of the carnival, but the carnival party at the local bar. Marcel did bring the children to the party but couldn’t help answering his other call in life. He holds the kids with one hand and with the other holds a glass of beer which is clearly not the first one. It is amazing how this scene manages to be incredibly sad and incredibly funny at the same time.
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