Wednesday 11 February 2015

Eastern Boys - an offbeat love story that ultimately loses the plot


Eastern Boys
Director: Robin Campillo
Starring: Kirill Emelyanov, Olivier Rabourdin, Danlil Vorobyev
Running time: 128mins

If French director Campillo’s name is familiar to you it will be because of his work on The Returned – the 2004 film he both wrote and directed, which was turned into a critically-acclaimed TV show a couple of years ago. But this, his second feature, could not be more different to the supernatural avenues he explored in his debut. Eastern Boys is an offbeat love story, detailing the relationship between Marek (Kirill Emelyanov) – a young Ukrainian immigrant in Paris – and Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), an older, wealthier man with a nice apartment in the city's suburbs.

The second time they meet, Marek is part of an immigrant gang that invades Daniel’s home and steals all his possessions. It’s hardly the most solid foundation upon which to build a relationship, nor is the fact Daniel pays Marek for sex, but somehow their bond grows. This part of the film is easily the strongest as Marek’s brutal back story is filled in and Daniel – an odd, alienated figure at first – becomes altogether more sympathetic as he realises he’s been exploiting the boy. At this point, too, Campillo seems to have something important to say about the wretched experience of Eastern European immigrants in France, and I was looking forward to seeing how he was going to develop that.

Unfortunately, he then opts to reintroduce the gang – including Jack O’Connell lookalike Danlil Vorobyev as the genuinely vile Boss – and proceedings take a sharp turn down action/adventure boulevard. The final half-hour is certainly tense enough but somehow seems to have been imported from another movie entirely. It also abandons any attempt at addressing  immigration in a sympathetic, or even interesting, way – the gang are a bunch of criminals and ne’er do wells, almost like something out of Oliver Twist at times. It's a terribly clumsy misstep in a slow-burning film that at least does right by its two main characters. 

Rating: WW

Eastern Boys is available now on VOD, and on Blu-ray and DVD from March 9


WWWW = Wonderful
WWW = Worthy
WW = Watchable
W = Woeful

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