Pages Navigation Menu

"No matter where you go, there you are."


TIFF 2023 Review: Close To You – “Elliot Page’s powerful performance is the reason the film clicks”

Elliot Page in CLOSE TO YOU. Courtesy of TIFF

After over four years of being away from home, Sam (Elliot Page) is finally feeling like he might be ready to return.  It’s his father’s birthday, a seemingly reasonable reason for a short visit, even if his roommate tries to talk him out of it.  “I’m just a disappointment to them,” Sam voices, still feeling trepidatious about the trip.  Having moved to Toronto to start fresh and transition, this young trans man is finally feeling happy enough to risk the potential discomfort of returning back to his small town of Coburg, Ontario.  While his family claims to accept him, whether Sam can be expected to feel that acceptance is another thing entirely. 

Check out all of our TIFF coverage

While on the train to Coburg, Sam runs into an old high school friend, Katherine (Hillary Baack) and they enjoy small talk on the journey, Katherine commenting on how good Sam looks, Sam relaying how he finally feels happy.  Yet when it’s time to disembark the train Katherine becomes distant, as if she doesn’t want her husband to see who she’s been talking to.  Or, perhaps it’s old feelings bubbling up and a return of intimacy that is bothering her.  While the two will eventually reconnect and reform their once close bond in the second half of the film, this scene creates a foreboding sense of what Sam is about to experience. 

Director Dominic Savage worked closely with Page to flesh out an outline for Close To You, yet the dialogue you see is improvised.  Savage lets his actors move through a scene unimpeded.  They noted in a Q&A after the second screening that one take of a scene even went as long as 53 minutes as there was just more to explore.  There are pros and cons to the approach.  Initially, the dialogue seems imperfect and authentic adding to the realistic quality of the film.  However, as the film goes on, and especially as Katherine and Sam’s relationship is explored, sometimes the dialogue moves in circles.  It often doesn’t take you anywhere new, perhaps missing beats that may make the plot move further, or make this potential blossoming romance make more of an impact.  

The film’s approach works better in the first half.  As Sam navigates his family welcoming him with open arms, he is on edge.  While on the surface everything points to a family that is well-intentioned, he still deals with a mother that misgenders him and prying questions from his siblings.   It’s telling that the one person who seems to be most accepting is his sister’s new boyfriend who never knew Sam before this visit.  It all boils over into the most distressing scene of the film where Sam’s prospective brother-in-law, Paul shows his truly transphobic side.  Sam’s understandable rage – both past and present – is released and Sam’s father gives an impassioned speech about how he only wants his son back in his life. It’s a moment that encouraged applause from the audience as well as tears, that sequence is truly powerful.

Elliot Page returning to the big screen in his first feature role since his own transition, proves once again what an immense talent he is.  He brings a remarkable and required vulnerability as Sam.  The emotion of his journey is wide-ranging and he taps into that so incredibly well.  Often viewed in extreme close-ups, Sam’s experiences are written on his face and in his body language.  

There are some parts of Close To You that work well, the family drama perhaps more than the second half of the film which concentrates on Sam and Katherine’s relationship.  It’s a quiet, but slightly disjointed film, the two halves never really becoming whole.  Page’s powerful performance is the reason that Close To You clicks, the reason to watch, and is hopefully just a snapshot of more of his wonderful work yet to come.  

Close To You had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September, 10, 2023.  For more information please head to

Previous PostNext Post


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.