Opening with a heart-wrenching scene chronicling the death of a marriage, Ne Me Quitte Pas sets the tone early. The viewer is immediately aware that the film will be far from a feel good story. Not that “feel good” is a term one would associate with two damaged souls drowning their sorrows in the woods.
We first meet Marcel as he and his soon to be ex-wife discuss their separation. The couple has three small children and Marcel is clearly not ready to end their union. He even half-heartedly attempts to have one more intimate encounter with his wife. Marcel’s woes are juxtaposed with that of his good friend Bob, whom we see picking out the tree he plans to hang himself from. An idea that becomes increasingly more appealing to Marcel.
Sitting at a table propped up against a brick wall, Marcel and Bob spend their time drinking and lamenting all the things that went wrong in their lives. Marcel swigs beer and wine while reflecting on his 16 years of marriage. Consuming his daily allotment of 1.5 litres of rum, Bob bemoans the fact that his son has not visited him in the woods in a rather long time.
Directors Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden spent two years gathering footage to tell their story. The extraordinary amount of time the directors spent with the pair results in some magical exchanges between Marcel and Bob on screen. The interaction between the pair is so seamless that it is easy to forget that none of the production is scripted.
The narrative is very physical and raw with actions that are downright dangerous. Part of this is due to the fact that Marcel is often inebriated to point where he is unable to function properly. Watching some of the perilous moment, the viewers cannot help but ponder whether the directors should have stopped filming and intervened.
Ne Me Quitte Pas paints an enthralling portrait of two different men whose lasting friendship is both comforting and destructive. Bakker and van Koevorden do a good job of showing the men’s subtle differences even when locked in similar circumstances. An example of this comes in a cringe-worthy sequence where both men, one relaxed and the other tense, go to a dental appointment. Overall, the film reminds us that despite the paths they may each take, these are two men who are stuck in a way of life that is not easy to change.