Film Reviews

EASTERN BOYS

By • Feb 20th, 2015 •

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A guy trolling a Paris railway station looking for a hookup with a teen ends up with more than he was willing to pay for.

Robin Campillo had the creative freedom to take his film in numerous directions;
the easy route with typicality or to the extreme. EASTERN BOYS is a drama that is paced skillfully to allow time for the viewer to understand and care about the characters while driving the story further at intervals toward a fantastic finish. What is classified as alternative cinema can be described as a restrained Irvine Welsh story with gangs, theft, sex, and the key ingredient, compassion.

The opening simulates a silent film with inaudible murmurs and ambient sound over images of the Paris train station in Gare du Nord. Security takes notice of various male adolescents. The camera is kept at a distance giving the feel of Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION. An older adult takes an interest in a male much younger than he and an arrangement to meet at the prowler’s apartment for 50 Euro is set. And so, an unassuming illicit transaction has taken them onto a course to their destinies.

The older guy, Daniel, is played by Olivier Rabourdin who looks similar to Kevin Spacey. What is to be thought of someone who is offering to pay a teen half their age for sex? Those who oppose will find themselves warming towards Daniel as he goes above and beyond redeeming himself. At first, Daniel’s reaction to his domestic quandary is somewhat odd considering that his home is being arrogated by his new ‘house guests.” With a threat levied against him, there is every opportunity for retaliation without fear of legal troubles. But, it’s the price that is paid to the piper. His lack of action is a stance of strength that reveals the true Daniel.

The snag Daniel is in is for soliciting Marek, a Ukrainian who runs with a group of Eastern Europeans floundering in France. The gang leader, Boss, feeds upon weakness with a tight grip on his boys, willing to claim alpha male status through intimidation and public displays of physical devastation for insubordination.

The men in this triangle are all disguised. With Boss’ temperament, Marek’s taciturn demeanor, and Daniel’s nimbleness, each one dons a mask to shield their true selves. Usually, this is a survival tactic as each person is at risk taking chances. Anyone can identify with a quality of either three. Although this is an unlikely situation to find care and compassion, it is within the realm of possibility.

What can EASTERN BOYS expect in the Unites States? Unfortunately, this film will gain only a limited audience at film festivals and go unnoticed based on its gay theme. An attitude lingers, regardless of publicly supported same sex marriage, with a refusal to embrace a film categorized as a ‘queer drama.’ Toting misconception and bias, Joe from down the block isn’t going to sit in a darkened room to watch a film where ‘two guys go at it.’ Secondly, American audiences dislike foreign language unless it’s printed on a menu. Be it film or music, if it ain’t in English fugghedaboudit. Those who reject this film based on its theme are missing out on work by a talented director.

What about BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN? This is a film where two males have a relationship. It raked in over 83 million dollars domestically playing in over 2,000 theaters. It’s cast consisted of Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, and Randy Quaid. Other than Randy Quaid, the others were known but had yet to reach the status that they all would later achieve. Regardless of Ang Lee’s stature it was the actors’ names that sold tickets.

EASTERN BOYS has the appeal to be turned into a brainless Hollywood knockoff. The film will probably star a Channing Tatum type and someone with the looks of Demi Lovato portraying a girl from across the border. It’s sure to be packed full of profanity, nudity, and overly choreographed fighting scenes in slo-mo. Happily, the girl will vindicated for never actually spending anytime with the johns as the two go forth to open a food truck business…who cares.

For those looking for a movie to watch with substance and a chance to discuss filmmaking techniques, character depth and social commentary EASTERN BOYS is the film.

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