An extremely topical theme and unpredictable characters hold the audience's attention even when this French drama takes some rather implausible turns. Shot and performed with earthy honesty, the film grapples with prickly situations in ways that are both enlightening and somewhat frustrating to watch. But by refusing to go where expected, writer-director Robin Campillo tells a story that can't help but add a personal angle to the immigration debate.
In Paris, Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) is a middle-aged nice guy intrigued by a gang of Eastern European guys hanging around the Gare du Nord. Specifically, he finds himself dawn to Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), and eventually gets the nerve to invite him to his flat. But Marek turns up with the entire gang in tow, and they proceed to steal pretty much everything from Daniel's home. The next day, Marek comes back alone and apologetic, and Daniel reluctantly agrees to talk to him. As they begin a regular routine as rentboy and client, Daniel decides that maybe he can help Marek break free from the gang leader they call Boss (Daniil Vorobyev).
Even though it ends up as a somewhat contrived thriller, the film's shifting moods are fascinating as they evoke strong responses from the characters and the audience. In the beginning, the horror of Daniel's situation gives way to a rather sweet and messy friendship that's tricky to categorise. Is he in love with Marek or just lusting after him? Or perhaps something completely different is going on here. Campillo enjoys keeping the audience off balance, which can feel rather elusive, especially when something happens that's difficult to believe. But the film so provocative that it's worth the effort.
Continue reading: Eastern Boys Review
Gifted filmmaker Cantet (The Class) packs this fascinating story with vivid characters, but fails to shape the narrative into something that holds our attention. This is precision filmmaking, expertly recreating a period to adapt Joyce Carol Oates' iconic novel, but the movie is so long and meandering that it never builds up any momentum at all.
It's set in 1955, when 14-year-old Legs (Adamson) teams up with her best pal Maddy (Coseni) to form a secret society called Foxfire with their friends Rita, Goldie and Lana (Bisson, Mazerolle and Moyles). Their plan is to stick up for each other in the face of male persecution, and their first act together is to humiliate a sexist teacher. From here they get bolder, attacking Maddy's abusive uncle and waging war on the school bullies. Then a run-in with the law leaves Legs locked up in a girls' home. When she gets out, she rents a farmhouse where they can live together, but the money runs short so they start indulging in petty crimes. Then they plan an audacious kidnapping.
Cantet stages all of this so adeptly that it feels like a true story, complete with random details about the situations and characters. And since these girls all come from broken homes and struggle against gender inequality, we root for them to succeed. To a point. It's one thing to corner a predatory man; it's another to prey on someone who is completely innocent. So when they do that, it's impossible to see them as anything other than criminals.
Continue reading: Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang Review