Staying Vertical


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Staying Vertical
"He may provide too much shock detail for some audiences but the director proves himself a master story-teller." | Photo: Thierry Valletoux

If you saw Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger By The Lake (a thriller of sorts set in a rural gay cruising area with much nudity and no-holds barred physicality) then you will know to expect a strong take in this new dark fable about male sexuality.

Here he puts together an equally strange collection of men who are all fathers or carers and confronts them with various weird and wonderful situations, all set against a barren and mountainside background of winding roads, wolves and a flock of sheep.

The main character Leo (Damien Bonnard) is a wandering screenwriter, trying desperately to finish a script but never quite succeeding. Nonetheless he manages to talk the producer in to giving him advances to keep body and soul together.

His first encounter is with a shepherdess Marie (India Hair) with whom he has a child. Her father Jean-Louis (Raphael Thiry) allows him in to the household – and may even have designs on him himself. Marie, in a bout of post-natal depression, takes off with her two other children.

Leo’s meanderings lead him to a conversation with a young man Yoan (Basile Meilleurat) whom he tries to talk in to auditioning for him although there may be a hidden agenda. Yoan seems to be caring for a bolshie old man Marcel (Christian Bouillette) who is in to Pink Floyd. We’re not sure whether they might also be a sexual item.

Meanwhile Jean-Louis declares an interest in bedding Leo which, if he agreed, would mean he would be having sex with his son’s grandfather – which even for Guiraudie night be a step too far.

The fairy tale aspect of the narrative comes in to play when Leo seeks solace with an alternative faith healer (Laure Calamy) who lives in an isolated abode across a mist-shrouded river.

Guiraudie again pulls no punches in showing nudity and genitalia – it is done matter of factly and without any hint of exploitation. There is even a graphic scene of the birth of Leo’s son.

He may provide too much shock detail for some audiences but the director proves himself a master story-teller who draws you in hypnotically to his world in which conventional ideas of normality are constantly confronted.

Reviewed on: 13 May 2016
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A man is seduced by a free-spirited shepherdess and finds himself left holding the baby.

Director: Alain Guiraudie

Writer: Alain Guiraudie

Starring: Laure Calamy, Damien Bonnard, India Hair, Christian Bouillette, Raphaël Thierry

Year: 2016

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: France

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