Eastern Boys follows the relationship between a man and a young street hustler picked up on the streets of Paris. The film opens with a group of friends loitering around the Gare du Nord train station whilst an older man – Daniel, played by Olivier Rabourdin – lurks in the background, transfixed by the young group. After a few minutes of subtitle-less, inaudible dialogue that makes you worry if you should have learned French before you chose to watch the film, Daniel approaches a smouldering young man who calls himself Marek with a proposition. They agree on a price, a time and a place but Daniel will soon find out all is not as it seems.
The film definitely has some slow moments that even Rabourdin’s gloomy ways don’t seem to be able to enlighten. Yet thankfully Daniil Vorobyov swaggers into the film at just the right time as ‘Boss’ the head of the gang of boys. He takes every scene he is in with a villainous magnetism that you wouldn’t expect to see in gay cinema. The attractive, dangerous, cold and calculating antagonist turns Daniel from a seedy middle aged man into a victim and has you on the edge of your seat whenever he is around. Even with his fancy little earring.
Watching Daniel’s transformation throughout the film shows you a very well thought out character. At first when you watch his apartment get taken apart and he just dances around like an uncle at a wedding you put it down to helplessness. He wakes up to a shell of an apartment and starts to rebuild his home. But when Marek comes back to fulfil his end of the bargain (who said there’s no honour amongst thieves) you begin to realise that Daniel is looking for something that he is missing in life, he has grown old before he knows it and all he has to show for it is a fancy apartment.
Director Robin Campillo has cleverly split the film into defined parts, with the film coming to life in part 2 – ‘The party Of Which I Am The Hostage.’ Both part 2 and 3 ‘What We Make Together’ take place mostly within the walls of Daniel’s apartment overlooking urban Paris. The climatic part 4 Dungeons and Dragons is what truly separates Eastern Boys from other films in the genre as the focus shifts away from the couple and targets the real world issue of illegal immigration. With a very different and particularly hard hitting feel from earlier in the film, you watch lives get destroyed as adults and children alike are snatched up by immigration officers whilst Daniel races against the clock to find Marek amidst a chaotic raid.
If you have ever wondered about the dynamics of a relationship between an older man and his young male lover then Eastern Boys is definitely worth a watch. The film boldly explores the unchartered territory of male prostitution with enough insight to satisfy even the most curious of intellectual minds. The middle two parts of the film are a mixture of sordid sex scenes and charming scenes of pillow talk and eating together.
After Daniel learns that Marek isn’t just a street hustler but is in fact a Ukrainian war orphan named Rouslan, the seedy lust in Daniel’s eyes fades away. Gone are the scenes of heavy breathing and moderate nudity and with them their entire relationships starts to change. Daniel becomes a guardian to Rouslan, giving him an allowance and a bedroom, even running head first into to danger to save him. Let’s face it, no one is comparing Eastern Boys to Pretty Woman but not only does Daniel risk his own life to save Marek’s- he also buys him an iPhone.
Although slow in some points and continuously burdened with an annoying electronic beat noise that some would call music, Eastern Boys is definitely a worth a go. Rabourdin’s sullen manner becomes quite likeable after a few minutes and the film is littered with modest and open scenes that will give you the warm and fuzzies. The film definitely has something to say not only for itself but for real world issues, so if you consider yourself an intellectual there’s that to look forward to. If not then the baddie is rather handsome and usually topless so there’s something for everyone.