Two brothers turn a small pub into the place to be in the nightlife of Ghent. With more enthusiasm than know-how they incorporate an adjacent empty building and transform it into a nightclub. The bigger they get the more professional and responsible they should become but this doesn’t correspond with the ‘original concept’ of a cosy, easy-going place where everybody is welcome and anything goes. But whereas the older brother Frank (Tom Vermeir) sees their joint venture as an escape from responisbility (from his family life) the younger brother (Stef Aerts) is yearning for a family of his own. Tensions start to build up and painful choices need to be made.
Director Felix van Groeningen (De Helaasheid der Dingen a.k.a. The Misfortunates, The Broken Circle Breakdown) loosely based his film on the real-life bar ‘The Charlatan’ -previously owned by his father and later taken over by two brothers- and the events he’s witnessed and stories he heard. At first glance the script is more character than plot-driven but it is richer and more subtle than you might think.
The film is also very music driven, Soulwax (David and Stephen Dewaele at one stage known as The Fucking Dewaele Brothers) -who also collaborated with van Groeningen on his debut Steve + Sky– have created 16 original bands to play their music life in the film which proved to be an excellent choice. If you are somewhat familiar with the Belgian (and Ghent) music scene you’ll be able to spot a lot of familiar faces playing in these bands, the ‘ladies’ from Kenji Minogue, Kamagurka’s children Boris en Sarah Yu Zeebroek (from Hong Kong Dong), Roland, Steven Janssens, and Lander Gyselinck and Bent Van Looy on the drums.
The pub/parties scenes therefore look, feel and almost smell (luckily odorama never caught on) incredibly realistic. Kudos to editor Nico leunen, Ruben Impens for his brilliant lightning and photography and art director Kurt Rigolle, no mean achievement. The only thing remotely similar are the party scenes towards the end of Tom Barman’s Any Way the Wind Blows.
The film has some great performances by more established actors such as Stef Aerts en Charlotte Vandermeersch and some new (to film at least) interesting faces like Tom Vermeir and Hélèné De Vos. In smaller parts you may notice van Groeningen regulars Titus De Voogtd (the lead in Steve + Sky) and Johan Heldenbergh who means to van Groeningen what Olivier Gourmet means for the Dardenne brothers, unmissable.
Netflix has secured the exclusive worldwide VOD distribution rights -except for some major European countries where the film will be shown theatrically- and the film will be seen on their platform in many countries.