Elliot Page calls heavily improvised trans drama Close to You a career ‘highlight’

Elliot Page smiles on the Toronto Film Festival red carpet. He is wearing a black top and orange and brown shirt.

As Elliot Page’s latest feature debuts at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), he has reflected on filming career “highlight”, Close to You.

Close to You marks Page’s return to the big screen for the first time since 2017, when he appeared in Flatliners. The Oscar-nominated actor took a step back from the cinematic limelight as he embarked on his gender transition journey, publicly coming out as a trans man in 2020.

His memoir, Pageboy, shed light on his experience of navigating Hollywood as a closeted trans person. One anecdote saw the star recall how he developed shingles after “feeling out of place” while surrounded by cis men during the filming of Inception.

Amid the challenges, Page also shared the highlights, from posting shirtless selfies after top surgery, to his character Viktor transitioning in his Netflix series Umbrella Academy.

In Close to You, from Page’s on independent company Page Boy Productions, the actor plays trans man Sam, who visits his hometown for the first time since transitioning and is reunited with a childhood friend.

The film, co-written by Page and director Dominic Savage, remains largely unscripted and heavily improvised. In an interview with People magazine, Page talked about the filming.

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“This was a highlight of my career,” he said. “[Savage’s] process, the experience of making a film in this way is not something I’ve done before. I feel grateful to be a part of his work and hope to do it again.”

What is the plot of Close to You?

Elliot Page has opened up about filming his new movie Close To You.
Elliot Page has been absent from the big screen since 2017. (Getty Images)

Four years after he starts transitioning, Sam, played by Elliot Page, leaves his vibrant new life in Toronto to return to his much smaller home town for a dreaded family reunion and to celebrate his father’s birthday.

According to the official synopsis, he runs into Katherine Hillary Baack, a friend from high school with her own complicated life, and feelings from their unresolved past begin to bubble to the surface.

The synopsis continues: “Sam worries about seeing his family after so much time apart – not for fear that they’ll reject him, but because of the unsolicited comments and questions he’ll receive about his transition, placing the weight of his family’s ignorance and discomfort squarely on his shoulders.”

Wendy Crewson plays Sam’s mother, and Peter Outerbridge stars as his dad.

What has Elliot Page said about the film?

During the world premiere of the film at the Toronto festival, Page spoke to Entertainment Weekly and highlighted one scene where his character wakes up in bed shirtless and gets ready for the day. Although it sounds small, the impact it had on the star was huge.

“Shooting on the day, I was getting out of bed and getting dressed, it was sort of clumsy, like, ‘Oh, it would be great, he sleeps shirtless’,” he said.

“In the moment, when you’re making this, you’re making it from this instinctual place that I don’t know how to describe. It just sort of happens, but at the same time, it just felt natural. Showing this dude who’s comfortable and present and waking up in his body, that means a lot to me.

“I never thought I’d feel that way, so it’s nice to get to act it.”

Elliot Page as Sam in Close To You.
Elliot Page as Sam in Close to You. (PageBoy Productions)

Elsewhere he spoke to Variety about filming the longest take; a 53-minute improvised scene. “It’s like a dance. You’re really existing in it. It had me tired in moments but incredibly exhilarated,” he revealed.

And speaking to Reuters on the red carpet, Page said: “So much of this movie is about connections, what it means to be human and what it means to feel seen. And I imagine those themes resonate with most people.”

What are the reviews like forClose to You?

The first reviews for Close to You have been something of a mixed bag. The Guardian, The Hollywood Reporter and IndieWire praised Page’s acting but the critics felt his performance was held back by a “muddled” narrative and weaker co-stars.

Close to You feels too unfocused, a major win and a welcome return for Page yet an opportunity squandered,” Guardian critic Benjamin Lee wrote.

The Hollywood Reporter echoed that sentiment, saying: “The film yearns to capture the stages of this emotional exhumation, but a clunky screenplay makes for a less-affecting watch… [but] Page delivers a deeply felt lead turn.”

Meanwhile, Collider commented: “All through the scattered experience, Page is a shining light. Every move he makes gives the film something greater that it is never able to grasp. Instead, it all slips away into repetitive conversation scenes that are clunky rather than resonant.”

There is currently no UK release date for Close to You. It will next appear at Canada’s Cinéfest Sudbury International Film Festival later this month.

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