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By Whitney Borup | March 7, 2009

Take “While You Were Sleeping” minus the slapstick comedy, add a more engaging “In the Bedroom” plus “The Greatest,” and subtract everything about that awful movie “Wake” and you’ve got Switzerland’s nomination for the Oscars: “The Friend.”

In other words, “The Friend” is great. It is the story of a boy, Emile, who obsesses over a local musician named Larissa. One day Larissa approaches Emile and asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend in front of her parents. Emile is excited about this prospect until he finds out that Larissa died the next day. Her family invites him over to share in their grief and Emile starts to develop feelings for Larissa’s sister.

Taking its time in all the right places, Emile’s story slowly unfolds with cloudy uncertainty. Who Larissa really was and the exact nature of her death remains unclear as Emile tries to navigate through the workings of her family. Knowing nothing personal about Larissa, he has to continually lie to people he has come to really enjoy being around, even in their grief.

Every performance in this film is mesmerizing. As opposed to Hollywood filmmaking, these actors seem content to stay quiet, sober, and not quite attractive. And though what they are saying is in a language that I don’t understand, every inflection and expression is global.

Here is a film that deals with the grieving process in a realistic way. No one succumbs to insane, throwing-glass breakdowns, and no one seems to remain in complete denial of the situation. Instead, everyone is pretty accepting of a loved ones death. They find ways to cope and they seem to try to move on with their lives. It’s nice to see a film that seems to be informed by real people.

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