One should not judge a book by it’s cover, and nor should we judge a film by its subject. A number of elements came together to make this critic unenthused about watching this 2018 film from writer/director Tim Mielants, who worked on Peaky Blinders. For a start, it’s set in a naturist colony. While there are films which have amused by riffing on this kind of location, notably Blake Edwards’ A Shot in the Dark, naturism is more often seen by film-makers as ripe for tatty exploitation; it seems like an activity best enjoyed in peace rather than on the end of an intrusive lens. And the trailer, featuring missing hammers and sharp wood-work equipment, raises fears of violence; a combination of aging flesh, shrivelled genitals and potential gore didn’t inspire.
But Patrick gets a UK release from the Anti-Worlds imprint which has provided some invigorating cinema this year, so we soldier on to find that Patrick is a much more enjoyable film than might be expected. Played by Kevin Janssens, Patrick is a handyman who is generally content with his life in a Belgian holiday park, until one of his beloved hammers goes missing. Much like Pee Wee Herman and his search for his bike, Patrick’s search for a missing object puts him on a long and lonely path, bringing him into conflict with the world round about him. And that world is complex; there’s a whole lot of sex, deception and general skull-duggery going inside the camp, and while nothing is hidden in terms of physical bodies, there’s a corrupt underbelly that Patrick can’t help but find himself on a collision course with.
Patrick is a defiantly odd film, and most certainly not for everyone. Flight of the Conchorcds star Jermaine Clement turns up as Dustin Apollo, a passing rock-star hoping for some quiet time, and using the same artfully-posed guitar technique that Peter Sellers once used to cover his dignity in A Shot in the Dark. But although Clement’s performance is broadly drawn, Patrick isn’t a comedy, or if it is, it’s in the dark tragi-comedy vein of Lars von Trier’s The Idiots. Instead, it’s a parable about societal distrust, as Patrick’s hammer turns out to have been used for a real attack, and the handyman has to find the real culprit to clear his name.
Perhaps the audience has to self-select for a film like this, but if you can handle the concept, Patrick plays out in a way that’s actually quite compelling. Even if the sight of various human bodies undressed might seem unappetising, the viewer eventually settles down to focus on the actual story, which has a satisfying resolution that makes the journey worthwhile. Easily-offended viewers should beware, but this is a neat addition to the growing Anti-Worlds catalogue, and should help develop a cult following.
Thanks to Zoe Flower and Anti-Worlds for advance access to this title.
Patrick is streamable in the Uk from Nov 20th 2020. Link and trailer below.