Eastern Boys


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Eastern Boys
"Campillo keeps the questions coming."

Tension, transactions and territory form the lynchpins of Robin Campillo's latest film. The writer/director deftly juggles genre, weaving a story of illegal emigres and attitudes to them together with romantic elements and a gripping thriller to create a complex tapestry of emotion and social commentary.

Campillo's camera starts off at a distance, almost covertly observing the comings and goings of Paris' Gare du Nord, a station swimming with life and where a shoal of eastern European teenagers dart in and out of the crowds. Their pack set-up is readily apparent, with their Boss (never referred to by any other name and played by Daniil Vorobyov) offering a combination of brass neck and protection to the younger members of the group. Campillo lets us bring our own prejudices to bear. We don't overtly see them stealing but we sense it - and like so many aspects of the film, the filmmaker leaves us hanging. What gives us the right to judge? Are we morally compromised?

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As the camera closes in, we see an exchange between middle-aged businessman Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin) and a youth who calls himself Marek (Kirill Emelyanov). For 50 euros, Marek will "do everything". A date is set. When Daniel opens his door the next day, however, he gets a lot more than he bargained for, as the gang make their territory his own, stripping the contents of his flat in a drink-fuelled party that leaves Daniel standing bewildered among the menace.

The next day, Marek shows up alone to complete the deal and from there Campillo increasingly examines the territory and transactions of their relationship. Their first sex scene is telling. Campillo avoids the overtly graphic in favour of focusing on the different attitudes of the men, Daniel eager, Marek's face a stoic mask. Things between the two may change through the course of the film but this image lingers, challenging us to remember that Daniel will always remain in some way compromised despite his later actions.

Transactions are everywhere, from money left for the, apperently emigre, maid to clean Daniel's apartment - it is notable that we never see the two of them meet - to Marek's sacrifice of a full sense of self in order to retain the protection of the gang. We care deeply about his freedom and, thanks to a particularly fine performance from Rabourdin, Daniel's fate also comes to matter. Campillo keeps the questions coming. Is it right to house migrants on the fringes and expect problems not to emerge? What would you do if the only thing you could control in your life was the weaker people around you? Finally, Campillo's film looks not at Marek and Daniel but at us.

Reviewed on: 10 Dec 2014
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Story about a solitary Parisian and a young Ukrainian migrant.

Director: Robin Campillo

Writer: Robin Campillo

Starring: Olivier Rabourdin, Kirill Emelyanov, Daniil Vorobyov, Edéa Darcque, Camila Chanirova, Beka Markozashvili, Bislan Yakhiaev, Mohamed Doukouzov, Aitor Bourgade

Year: 2013

Runtime: 128 minutes

Country: France

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