★★★★★ | Eastern Boys
Filmmaker Robin Campilio’s disturbing new thriller sharply contrasts two different sides of society in contemporary France with a very chilling effect.
The first chapter of his four-part story is a near cinéma vérité scene of the Gard de Nord where a gang of Eastern European youths is trailing the platforms and aimlessly but obviously set on something illegal. One of them is a skinny baby-faced hustler who catches the attention of a 50 year-old businessman with whom he plays cat and mouse game throughout the station environs. When the youth allows himself to be cornered, they strike up an arrangement to meet at the man’s apartment the next day.
What wealthy Daniel thought would be a hot date with this young Ukrainian turns out to be a frightening home invasion when the entire gang arrive and strip his luxury apartment completely bare. Taunted by the cocky Russian ringleader Boss with some overtly sexual advances, Daniel seems both terrorized and aroused at the same time.
The third chapter opens with the surprising return of Marek the hustler … the time on his own … who offers to have sex as they originally had arranged. Despite the boy’s total indifference as he lays naked and motionless on bed Daniel still penetrates him, but the moment that it is over Marek quickly dresses and leaves without uttering a word. What is assumed would just be a one-off visit, is in fact repeated. At first its infrequently and then quite regularly but just as the youth starts to experience real feelings for Daniel, the older man decides that he wants to develop what they have into a non-sexual friendship.
It is obvious that both of them are still threatened by the hold that ‘Boss’ and the gang have over Marek, who still lives with them in a hotel full of other illegal immigrants in the suburbs. The only way for them to ever be free of the menace is to move away, but Boss has Marek’s only papers … his passport …. stored away in his safe. Their concern that trying to retrieve this will be nigh on impossible and extremely dangerous proves to be well-founded.
The relationship between Daniel and Marek is powerfully erotic especially as this sharp-suited savvy business man who has been viciously robbed by the boy and his thuggish pals, is yet somehow still attracted and is prepared to expose himself to potential danger again. And the different relationships that both of these men have with the charismatic but completely scary and unhinged Boss is both mesmerizing and unnerving.
The movie, which picked up the prestigious Horizons Award at the Venice Film Festival, was beautifully filmed, and had stunningly convincing performances from all three protagonists. (Olivier Rabourdin who looks like he could be Kevin Spacey’s twin played Daniel).
The morality of portraying all the immigrant boys in such a stereotypical manner is questionable, but that aside, this excellent drama will definitely rank as one of the best gay themed movies of this year.