Sundance 2023: When It Melts (Het smelt)

Directed by: Veerle Baetens
Distributed by: TBA

Written by Taylor Baker


“When It Melts” slowly unfurls the staggering pain of loneliness as a child. Eva is torn by her desire to belong in a family that doesn’t want her and her want for a neighborhood boy she fancies. In an effort to get close to him she creates a riddle for a game that he and his cousin play in the back of a barn to trick girls into alternatingly getting naked and letting them each feel the girls up as they try and solve Eva’s unsolvable riddle. “When It Melts” oscillates between the contemporary timeline of Eva returning to the village she grew up in as she encounters those she’d experienced her difficult child with and flashbacks to a particularly dire and woeful summer she experienced as a thirteen year old.

The loneliness and longing for attention she feels drives Eva into a toxic friendship with the two boys, leading to them assaulting her while a girl who was her friend moments before eggs them on and watches, promising to sleep with them if they rape her. “When It Melts” challenges viewers with its layered characters, and the closeness of proximity both of the lens and characterization to what happens to Eva. After seeing the one woman in town she thought she could trust try to excuse it away then state that she’s not so innocent–insinuating the rape is her fault–she stumbles home to her passed out mother and tries to clean herself of what’s happened.

Few films can straddle the intimacy of characterization so unflinchingly, and even fewer directors can do so. Let alone in a debut. “When It Melts” is a self assured and self contained body blow that unfolds slowly, but once everything is out in the air you can’t challenge its composition or delivery. Veerle Baetens has delivered a strong debut that will test and haunt audiences.

“When It Melts” was screened as part of the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on film on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

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