A young paedophile’s return to society is calmly explored in Belgian director Patrice Toye’s powerful, thought-provoking new film. Based on Inge Schilperoord’s controversial novel Muidhond.
This fearlessly empathetic drama about a young man fighting his dark nature asks us to bravely walk in the shoes of a character condemned to the extreme margins of society. Jonathan (23), released from prison and into the care of his mother, resumes a normal, diligent life while grappling with compulsions he desperately wants to escape. When a lonely 10-year-old girl moves in next door and innocently pines for his friendship, his genuine resolve is tested in no uncertain terms.
At once a compelling study of the capacity for rehabilitation and a clear-eyed, visually literate portrait of a tortured inner life, director Patrice Toye’s delicate film holds a steady focus on the human dimension behind paedophilia’s terrifying profile. Its bold questions, more existential than plainly moral, surface through a performance of rare sensitivity and intensity by Tijmen Govaerts, and a remarkable turn by Julia Brown, the little girl whose presence gives rise to both tenderness and very real tension. Tench will challenge every viewer’s notion of empathy – and in tandem with the protagonist’s painful struggle to suppress the unthinkable, the impulse to rush to judgement before understanding.
“In this film, I wanted to depict a deeply layered and humane portrait of a young man with a complex personality, a very good person at heart who, however, is prone to disastrous impulses… In this era where oversimplification reigns, where the world is black or white, I believe there’s a great need for nuance. A world in which we consider others as nothing more than strangers distresses me greatly. If we took a good look at ourselves, we’d see what complex creatures we are…
In our contemporary society, panic springs up the moment the subject of paedophilia is tackled. I perfectly understand this as I am the mother of two girls. But stigmatising paedophiles, dehumanising them or denying that they exist won’t solve the problem… I hope that this film will help to open the debate, so that potential abusers will dare to speak up about their constant inner struggle and look for help. Perhaps we can avoid new victims this way. Just one less victim would already be a good thing.” — director Patrice Toye
About the Filmmaker
Patrice Toye is a Belgian director and film teacher based in Brussels. Her second feature film, Nowhere Man (2008), won the NHK International Filmmakers Prize at Sundance and benefited from Wim Wenders’ personal support. Tench is her fourth feature. Selected filmography: Little Black Spiders (2012), Rosie (1998).