Films like Patrick are one of the reasons for venturing out to film festivals. It wasn’t flagged as one of the main highlights of the day when it was screened at Sitges in 2019 but there was something about the premise and the little information that was available which raised interest. I am glad I took a punt on it as it turned out to be one of my favourites.
Patrick is an unassuming man who works as a caretaker and handyman along with his father at a holiday park. The park in question is a naturist resort so everyone, guests and staff are as naked as the day they were born. Patrick loves his work and relishes the daily chores and the steady nature of his existence. When his father dies suddenly his world starts to slip sideways. Nominally, he is now in charge having inherited the holiday camp. The guests who are all long time visitors have certain assumptions about their status and influence on the running of the site. With the added complication of one his favourite hammers going missing he finds himself as the prime suspect when a crime is committed on the site, This threatens his sanity and his hold on the running of the site.
The portrayal of Patrick by Kevin Jannsens is a masterclass in low key acting. Patrick has led a sheltered life up to this point. He has had little need for human interaction outside of his close circle so he doesn’t need to be expressive during his normal routine. To the viewer, it seems that at first he is withdrawn but we soon become aware that he is in his element. As a performance, this is tricky to get across. The normal course of action would be to give him a quirk for the viewer to relate to. Here, it is all done through stillness and silence which are uncomfortable to watch but very effective.
The missing hammer is used as a device to move the story forward as well as to indicate just what Patrick is about. He clearly has an obsession with it as he spends large amounts of time trying to hunt it down. At first, this is quite gentle and routine, but as the search prolongs and the plot around the incident at the camp develops he becomes more and more agitated. His demeanour changes little but you can tell that he is starting to change for the worse given the stress he is being subjected to.
Rather than a device for comedy, the naturist element of the story is handled very well. At first, there is a comic tinge to it as we are introduced to the main characters as Patrick makes his way through the site on his way to a job. This gets the nakedness out of the way very quickly and after a while, you just accept that this is just the background to the action. What does work comedically is the political element of the film. The struggle for power in the camp following the death of Patrick’s father is a drama worthy of its own film. The way the schemes and power grabs unfold are handled deftly that allows the absurd nature of the situation to come to the fore.