★★★★★ | Beyond The Walls

This unexpected and rather remarkable film from first-time writer/director David Lambert realistically scrutinises the intimate details of the rise and fall of an edgy gay relationship, devoid of stereotypes.

It premiered at Cannes Film Festival during the Critics’ Week (picking up an award) and most of the reviewers then made a point of commenting that after Andrew Haigh’s very successful Weekend and Ira Sachs’ Keep The Lights On that there is a now a new movement of realism in gay cinema. And very refreshing it is too.

Drinking rather heavily in a Brussels’ bar one night, Paolo a young slim youth catches the eye of Illir a hunky bearded Albanian bartender and ends up waking in his bed next morning. Bisexual Paolo slinks back to his girlfriend but she eventually throws him out two days later, and Paolo now homeless, persuades Illir to put him up even though the barman knows that shacking up together after just a couple of dates is not a good idea.

However thrown together, love blossoms between the inexperienced young man and his ‘daddy’ figure boyfriend and everything is going really well until Illir, a part-time musician leaves town for a gig and ends up being arrested and jailed for possessing hash and resisting arrest. The clingy dependent Paolo is distraught and makes every visit to jail emotionally explosive, and Illir conscious of the tough guy image he wants to maintain in front of his cellmates, tells him never to return again.

Paolo eventually hooks up with an older successful businessman who he clearly doesn’t love, but the relationship empowers him to mature and find his own sense of worth. Halfway through Illir’s jail sentence, Paolo is still willing to jeopardise his own freedom by smuggling in some hash, but later by the time Illir is eventually freed, Paolo can resist Illir even though he is obviously still in love with him.

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Like both Weekend and Keep The Lights On there is no fairytale ending where everyone lives happily after: it is what it is. The relationship reaches giddy heights but both men in their different ways accept that it has run its course and that they cannot turn the clock back.

The story dips a tad in the later part losing the excellent pace that it started out with, and although by no means a perfect film it has much too highly recommend it. ‘Realism’ does not mean gloomy and Lambert obviously has a keen sense of humor and has written a couple of funny and affectionate scenes like when the normally closeted Illir grabs the microphone in the supermarket to ask anyone if they could point out the condoms so that he and his boyfriend could have a good afternoon making out. Plus there are the two lead actors Guilluame Gouix and Matila Malliarakis who are perfectly cast to add to the rawness of the piece. Well photographed too.

We’re giving this a high rating because not only is this a refreshingly enchanting heart-warming movie from this newbie Belgian filmmaker, but it strives (and succeeds) to help break the mould and not make this very real story into the usual frothy lightweight gay movie.