Directed by Robin Campillo
They come from all over Eastern Europe: Russia, Romania, Chechnya. They are Eastern boys. The oldest appear no more than 25; as for the youngest, there is no way of telling their age. They hang around the Gare du Nord train station in Paris. They might be prostitutes, but there is no way of knowing for certain. Muller, a discreet man in his late fifties has his eye on one of them - Marek. One afternoon, Muller gathers his courage and speaks to him. The young man agrees to come visit Muller the following day, at his place. However the next day, when the doorbell rings, Muller doesn't have the faintest idea that he has fallen into a trap.
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★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
Opens with two extended tours de force that derive their power from provocative multitasking: Gare du Nord sequence simultaneously tracks a gang of petty thieves and a cruising expedition, while the following scene, in Daniel's apartment, functions as both robbery and rave, with the victim ultimately surrendering to the beat. (The latter would be my current top choice for Skandies Best Scene, except that it's literally 15 seconds longer than the 20-minute maximum I instituted a while back.) Rest of the film isn't as thrilling, and suffers from some hoary melodrama (plus a last-ditch effort to humanize the villain that's too little too late), but the unexpected evolution of the central relationship—handled with such finesse that it takes a while to realize what's happening—ultimately won me over.
★★★½ review by Vincent Lao on Letterboxd
At first, Eastern Boys has a seemingly straightforward queer story about a middle-aged man who tracks a fresh-faced rent boy in a train station. Yet director Robin Campillo surprises viewers with his multi-layered narrative that is subtle and impactful. It’s a film that will take you by surprise because of how unpredictable and mysterious it is. The film touches on some heated territory of immigration and refugee crisis which is timely considering the sociopolitical situation in Europe. It does have some melodrama, but it’s what keeps the film exciting and moving. The two leads are effective. Olivier Rabourdin’s layered performance is the film’s beating heart. It’s quiet but you can feel the tension building up. Kirill Emelyanov, who plays the Ukrainian rent boy, gives a sincere and promising performance as well. Eastern Boys elevates its generic queer story with an unpredictable storyline that touches on issues that matters today.
★★★½ review by Jeffrey Coté on Letterboxd
An ocean of people shuffle about on their daily business at a train station in urban Paris. Men and women in suits rush off to their routes. Residents of the city chat on their phones as they stroll along, often sidling their way past photo booths, Coca-Cola machines and other human forms as they make their way along their day. Occasionally, someone stands out. He stands aimlessly, loitering with no purpose or sense of direction. A young boy, just barely a man. People of a higher class slow down and look back when they walk past. Maybe they're curious, maybe they're cruising or maybe they're just disgusted.
The first ten minutes of French director Robin Campillo's Eastern Boys is spent analyzing such small moments as these, nearly silent and otherwise completely detached from the action on the screen. The sequence forces you to analyze every second and every transaction in searching for purpose, or at the very least a protagonist. It's a fitting opening for what proves to be a very challenging and emotionally complex film.
Olivier Rabourdin stars as Daniel, a handsome and very well-off man in his early 50s. He meets a soft-faced and mysterious young man in the station, an impoverished and homeless immigrant from Eastern Europe named Marek (Kirill Emelyanov). They agree to meet at Daniel's house the next day - 50 euros for whatever Daniel wants to do with him. The following two hours are some of the most demanding cinema of recent memory. The power structure of their relationship is constantly shifting and evolving, which is at times more infuriating than anything else.
However, bearing through the frustration pays off. At one point in the film, the tide has just turned and Marek has helped to contribute toward an act of aggression and violence against Daniel. When they meet up again mere scenes later and resume their sexual relationship, Daniel's motivation for doing so remains undefined. Maybe his lust for Marek is so strong that he'd be willing to give up anything in order to be with him. Maybe he's working against a ticking clock and wants to create a relationship out of desperation. Or maybe he sees something in Marek worth fighting for. The reasoning behind these decisions is never fully explained and the film surprisingly benefits as a result, leaving spaces in between individual moments for the audience to fill in themselves.
A new element is introduced when we learn more about Marek's past. The story shifts from a narrative about the experience of a middle-aged, arguably closeted gay man and becomes a reflection on the lives of European immigrants. Though the shift in the narrative is ingenious on the surface, its execution is a major stumble. The transition is rocky as the film attempts to suddenly acquaint itself with new characters and different plot threads. There's also moments toward the end when the film becomes suddenly cliché and melodramatic, which is surprising considering its masterfully planned and beautifully filmed first act.
The conclusion to Eastern Boys is ultimately just as challenging as its opening, but in an entirely different way. People have been sacrificed and lives have been torn apart, yet the film attempts to inject a silver lining in its denouement. Whether or not we as the audience should take pride or feel happiness in this moment is completely uncertain. Perhaps this is for the best. Again, fitting for what may be the most frustrating, but ultimately rewarding film of the year so far.
★★★½ review by Michael Scott on Letterboxd
A john gets more than he bargains for when gives his address out to a fresh faced rent boy in a Paris train station. Lonely Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) waits anxiously for their appointment but when the kid, Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), shows up he's not alone. In tow is an entire dance party of light fingered Eastern Europeans, led by a magnetically-eyed ringleader known simply as Boss (Daniil Vorobyov). They charismatically fleece the apartment.
Obviously, love still blossoms.
Despite its wild leaps of faith, writer director Robin Campillo's tense psychodramapowerplay works extremely well. Much of its success has to do with the excellent character work and Campillo's ability to meld Europe's current sociopolitical concepts with a bracing, if somewhat tainted, romance. Bodies as commodity meets Western European sanctimony. It's not always an easy watch.
Campillo does well to make Eastern Boys as believable as he does. Rabourdin sells Daniel's self-righteous loneliness unreservedly and Emelyanov's performance expertly straddles the divide between emotional need and cold-hearted survivalist. Everything is underpinned by suitably slick visuals. All this maintains interest throughout the film's overlong runtime and even pulls it through a rather startling genre shift in its extended final act.
Eastern Boys toys with some hard hitting themes and, while it doesn't come out unscathed, there is a lot to mull over after the final scene. Certainly one of the more worthy queer films of recent years.
★★★★½ review by Kamilleroboter on Letterboxd
This snatched my wig to Russia and back.
Eastern Boys approached it's themes so well and nuanced that you never question anything about it. It feels real. Campillo's direction is immensely kinetic with the simplest of tools...consider me a new fan. Cannot wait to see 120 BPM in two weeks.
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