KEEP GOING, from Joachim Lafosse and based on a novel source, is an impressive window into the lives of a mother and son. Using the wide landscapes of Kyrgyzstan, the character of their relationship is coloured in amidst some stunning visuals.
We open as Sybille (Virginie Efira) and her son Samuel (Kacey Mottet Klein) are trekking on horseback across a wide rocky vista in Kyrgyzstan. Sybille’s father used to run horseback tours, and it seems as if she has undertaken this trip to reboot herself after a troubled time back home. Samuel – revealed to have assaulted a teacher back home in France – seems to have been dragged along semi-willingly and, although a skilled horse handler, is prone to combust and escalate arguments.
Throughout, there are many lovely moments of interaction that get across the state of the relationship. As Sybille converses in Russian with their Kyrgyzstani hosts, Samuel slowly grows more and more frustrated until he blows up. Later, however, he helps Sybille calmly improve her riding technique. The dual nature of both these individuals is examined throughout, using Samuel’s temperament and Sybille’s maternal (or otherwise) instincts.
Lafosse finds way to take a visual scenario obviously heavily influenced by the Western genre and inject it with a modern flavour based on the two characters. A shot of Samuel dancing to music through his headphones on a hilltop is both striking and amusing. When one of their horses bolts in the middle of the night, Samuel takes off after it, the white animal disappearing into the dark abyss, and slowly coming into focus when it is returned.
The extent of the landscape is used as a way to isolate the central pairing, leaving them with nothing to talk about but the circumstances of how they got here. The ways they aggravate comfort, protect, and envy each other are all explored during the film’s run by various testing scenarios.
There isn’t a sense of resolution at the end of the film, and a lack of catharsis. In some ways, the relationship has matured but perhaps not progressed. Understanding has developed, but the fundamental features of their relationship have not moved on. It feels entirely appropriate, however – they will continue, navigating the emotional terrain and the various obstacles it presents. It can be tough, but they will, nevertheless, keep going.