Formally fascinating and sexually frank, the audacious latest from director Robin Campillo takes us to the edge of discomfort as it presents a middle-aged Frenchman’s entanglement with a group of young Eastern European hustlers — and gives way to a love story with a conscience.
When a middle-aged Frenchman cruises the Gare du Nord one day and solicits a young foreigner, little does he know how his life is going to change. After making a date to meet at his apartment the next day, Daniel is goggle-eyed when a different — and clearly underaged — youth knocks at his door. Before the older man has time to catch his breath, the youngster recites to him the implications of being caught with a minor. Within minutes, a motley gang of toughs walk brazenly into his chic apartment and make it their own. So begins Robin Campillo's daring look at modern day France and how some immigrants — in this case a mix of Russians, Ukrainians, and other Eastern Europeans — survive in their new country.
Eastern Boys is a formally fascinating film. For one thing, it's not afraid of the extended sequence, something it has in common with Blue Is the Warmest Colour (also at the Festival). And, like that film, it is also unafraid of explicit sexuality. We are forced, often to the edge of discomfort, to look, as Campillo traces Daniel's strange and affecting voyage through the nightmare that becomes his life. There are also unexpected twists, as the director skilfully navigates the labyrinthine world in which his protagonist is lost.
A love story with a social conscience,
Eastern Boys confronts an issue at the
forefront of the European project. Never
didactic, often audacious, always brave,
and fiercely performed by veteran Olivier
Rabourdin and a group of unknowns,
Campillo's film moves us along a trajectory
that can only have one of two outcomes.