Eye For Film >> Movies >> Golden Boy (2018) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
There's a stage in life between finishing education and getting into that first decently-paying job when it's very easy to find oneself living precariously. A shortage of resources isn't the only problem - sometimes one simply doesn't have the skills to navigate the adult world and needs a bit of support, something that not everyone can get from family members. The trouble is that where there are young people looking for help there are always older people looking to exploit them - a fact obvious to those of us who have put that stage of life behind us but harder to reckon with for many of those in the thick of it.
James (co-writer Mark Elias) is down on his luck. He can't afford to pay his rent and everyone he knows is sick of bailing him out. He's on the brink of resorting to desperate measures when he's picked up by CQ (Lex Medlin), a wealthy older businessman who tells him he has potential, buys him gifts, cuts his hair and quickly becomes like a father to him, firm but fair - or so it seems. CQ mixes with a crowd of bright young things who take a lot of cocaine, have a lot of casual sex and rather overwhelm the shy James. There are also some criminal dealings going on but the young man takes these in his stride, not wanting to rock the boat. The trouble is, these are not the whole of CQ's game, and by the time James wakes up to what's happening to him, it's very difficult to get out.
This is a familiar tale but well played by the two leads and with a nice turn from Paul Culos as photographer Josh, the one person whose affection for James might be genuine. The relationship between the two young men is well drawn and adds depth to the story. Bisexual characters not sensationalised as such are still rare in cinema and Elias convinces as someone who thought of himself as gay for pay only, with a lot of internalised homophobia, who retains his interest in women but finds himself falling for a man. Josh's impatience with his increasing moodiness makes for an affair that is messy in the way particular to young people experiencing the world very intensely and unsure how or when to make allowances for others, and the need for them to develop trust balances well against James' need to shed his childlike trust in CQ.
There's a great deal of sex in the film, most of it implied or obliquely shot; Westmoreland is less interested in the physics of it than in the chemistry, aided by numerous pills, as James shifts from enthusiasm to doubt, beginning to recognise his lack of power. Westmoreland makes just a few sets go a long way, working well within budgetary constraints, though there are still moments when the film feels stagy. His biggest challenge lies in elevating what is basically a pulp novel plot, and to the extent that he does so, he has his cast to thank.Reviewed on: 18 Sep 2019