Winner of the Venice Horizons Award for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival. I suspect if I had not known of a similar event that I witnessed in my own life in the late nineties, the narrative changes that occur in Eastern Boys could potentially be perceived as fanciful. My first hand experience of an older gay man and a young asian immigrant looking for residency is strikingly familiar to the story in the French Film Eastern Boys. The sexual dynamics within that relationship remain a mystery but the power dynamics are strikingly familiar.
The story involves a gay middle aged man Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) who begins the film cruising at Paris’s Gare du Nord station in search of cheap sex from a young Eastern boy named Marek (Kirill Emelyanov). The opening scenes shot largely in long shots capture how the larger Eastern Boys gang loiter, searching for an opportunity to steal or sell their bodies for cash. It promises a film of open spaces and a widescreen landscape. However much of the remainder of the narrative takes place inside Daniel’s apartment and the development of a relationship initially sexual and then something deeper between Daniel and his boy toy.
What is remarkable here is the lack of moral judgement by Robin Campillo, who previously scripted the Palme D’Or winning The Class? What begins as a simple, straightforward exchange of sex for money, develops into something more paternal. Even the chief, almost psychotic gang leader (an impressive Danil Vorobyev) is finally portrayed with a sympathetic understanding of his plight. What would you do in the same circumstances? The film is broken up into four chapters, Her Majesty, The Street; This Party I Am a Hostage Of, What We Make Together and finally Halt Hotel, Dungeons and Dragons, where the film moves away from the interior of Daniel’s apartment.
Eastern Boys is not for everyone’s taste, but for those searching for a narrative devoid of cliche and predictability will find much to savour. The performances are excellent.