Welcome to rural Belgium, where alcohol, humour and solitude are the favoured ways to pass the time, at least when our unlikely protagonists, Bob and Marcel, are concerned.
Beautifully photographed, the less than beautiful lives of these two bleary eyed gentleman is transformed into a tender and thoughtful documentary exploring ideas of friendship, family and rural life. Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels Van Koevorden’s Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me) was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival where it also won Best Editing and now is presented as part of the LFF Documentary Competition. And a worthy contender it is indeed.
In the desolate heart of Belgium’s Wallonian forests, Marcel’s wife has just left him – packed up and gone with another man, kids and furniture in tow. Distraught, Marcel calls on his friend Bob, a retired cowboy, although the hat remains, for support. The two men find their support at the bottom of (many) bottles of beer and wine. And rum, for Bob. But alongside their mutual love of alcohol and kitchen table philosophy, there is still time to construct fly traps with sticky paper, keep up to date on their dental health and attend a local carnival.
It is a slow and melancholic life they lead, and a similarly slow and melancholic film as a result but one that is still strangely transfixing. Marcel’s descent becomes even too much for Bob who takes his friend to rehab, sitting by his bedside while Marcel flirts with nurses, goes into withdrawal and then comes out the other side. Albeit only temporarily… While his vacation from alcoholism is short lived, there is a glimmer of hope in Marcel’s intentions. Or perhaps it is simply just a new way to pass the time? Either way, we are granted voyeuristic access as the two men talk candidly, barely noticing the presence of the camera in their homes as they stumble and spit away their days.
Opening with a quote from Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot there is certainly a Beckettian lean towards lifting the existential from the mundane as these two men drift from conversations of their favourite alcohol fixes, the meaning of love to the perfect place to end it all. Thematically, we may be on the hard stuff, but delivered with the almost charming self deprecating wit of Marcel and contrasted in the eyes of his stoic and wizened companion, Bob, instead we are left with a hilarious and thought provoking film.
Ne Me Quitte Pas is screening on Sunday 12 October (ICA) and Tuesday 14 October (Ritzy Cinema).
View the full festival programme online: www.bfi.org.uk/lff