American writer-director Tim Mielants premiered his first feature film, “Patrick” at this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Mielants, so far known for his work on tv shows like “Legion” and “Peaky Blinders” brings us something different from what we are used to. A quirky indie tragicomedy for a lazy summer night.
The film follows Patrick. An emotionless thirty-something Belgian still living with his parents. He runs a small nudist camp with them. His mother is blind and his father is getting too old to work around the camp. It doesn’t help that the campers who are in their 50’s and 60’s are as horny as a teenager. When his father dies, and his favorite hammer disappears from the shelf, Patrick sets out for a comical/existential quest to find the lost hammer and also to get a grip of his life.
Hammer mystery and something more…
Coming of (old) age story about coping with the loss and taking over the legacy on the one side, and a funny, nonsensical summer quest for the lost object on the other, doesn’t really sound like a combination that might work. To be honest, it is hard to say Mielants didn’t try to make a good film with all the funny bits and constantly engaging story. Still, in the end, it wasn’t enough – Mostly because of a tangled and messy script at the helm.
The film manages to set up a decent amount of side characters and potential suspects for the “lost hammer” story. However, when they all serve as an emotional gateway for a lost Patrick, they never seem to serve any meaning whatsoever. His blind mother Nelly is there only to make us feel bad for the protagonist. Other characters like Herman and Liliane are a prime example of how film exploits its own time in useless side stories that lead nowhere. We never get true motivation for Lilliane and Patrick’s affair. We never really get a good enough reason for Herman to even think about taking over the camp. And, in the end, all the small bits that we get from the story of this couple just ends up being a red herring in Patrick’s quest.
Same goes for a story of Dustin and his girlfriend. They are a couple of musician campers who are almost the same age as the protagonist. Out of the bunch, these two characters are the ones who bring a “spark of joy” in a rather dead vibes camp which doesn’t serve any purpose to move the story forward in a rightful way. Dustin is a stereotypical unfaithful scumbag boyfriend for the sake of it and of course, Natalie is there to turn her attention to Patrick, which wouldn’t be a problem if they actually showed any affection between the two.
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Getting campy in the.. camp?
The endpoint of the hammer mystery story isn’t in any reasonable way connected. The events play out in the most random and generic way possible, so there is no need to try and look for any clues for solving the mystery.
Another rather nonsensical choice would also be making the camp naturalist only. With few laughs and giggles that nude old bodies might make in interaction, they don’t really add in any way to a story. The film could have been set in any kind of camp or maybe even in a retirement home and almost all the comical moments would work the same way making the story elements feel like a lost cause.
The cold campy fire?
Overall, it is really hard to see the bright side of “Patrick”. Maybe the thing that could be said about this film is – It gets you to have a few laughs and giggles here and there. Mostly on pure awkwardness of situations and out of pitty. If you have nothing better to do, on a hot summer night, this might be a fine movie to have in the background while hanging around with friends.