Main cast: Olivier Rabourdin (Daniel Muller), Kirill Emelyanov (Marek), and Danil Vorobyov (Boss)
Director: Robin Campillo
Eastern Boys is packaged to resemble one of the many soft porn romantic gay flicks out there, but I’d hesitate to call it a romance story. The couple in question do not display any degree of emotion that can be passed off as romantic love. Not to say that this is a bad movie. It’s a fascinating and arresting film. It’s not just what I’d call a conventional love story.
We’re in Paris. Marek is one of the many young kids who operate as a gang under the leadership of the Boss, who treat them like his personal serfs in his kingdom. Daniel Muller, a considerably well-moneyed fellow, has his eye on Marek for a long time now, and one day, he musters the courage to approach that young man and invites that kid to his place for a “financial transaction”, let’s just say. It’s clear that Daniel either has never or has rarely picked up kids from the streets, because he gives Marek his actual address. What happens is the Boss leading the whole gang to Daniel’s place to rob that man blind and trash whatever is left in the man’s apartment. Still, Marek shows up again shortly after, this time on his own, and the two of them embark on a volatile escort-client relationship that gets complicated by Marek’s ties to his gang and those darned things called feelings.
The relationship between Marek and Daniel is strictly financial on Marek’s part and convenient pleasure on Daniel’s part, so their sex scenes are far from tender. Marek doesn’t respond, and Daniel just takes his pleasure off that kid, so I hope people watching this film aren’t hoping for lovely sweet moments. The more emotional moments come from scenes that take place outside the bedroom. A big part of my fascination comes from following the power shifts in this relationship. On the surface, Marek seems to have the upper hand as he’s getting Daniel to buy him nice things and pay him all in exchange for a few nights in the much older man’s bed (Daniel, like the actor playing him, is in his 50’s while Marek is said to be in his teens). However, it is soon obvious that Marek is developing feelings for Daniel. No, not romantic feelings, more like him coming to see Daniel as some kind of master/father figure.
Of course, it helps that Olivier Rabourdin is very nice to look at, with or without clothes. His body is on the real side – some spare tires around the waist, lack of six pack abs, that kind of thing – and is more easy on the eyes as a result. I’m sure some folks would find Kirill Emelyanov nice to look at, but I personally feel that he needs to eat a bit more. But there’s no denying that he looks exactly like what he is playing – a kid on the street, who would naturally be on the scrawny side because it’s not like he’s eating good meals or going to some high-class gym every day. The script doesn’t shy away from portraying Marek as a confused and often thoughtless young man, so the character feels more real as a result. That scene where he opens up about his past to Daniel, only to feel hurt when he doesn’t respond like Marek hoped, can hit pretty hard.
The thriller aspects of the story serve more as filler than anything else, but at least it gets Daniel to show some daddy-to-the-rescue moments that can be sweet. Still, I do wonder why he is doing so much for Marek. I’d imagine it’s some kind of daddy savior complex on his part, but who knows. The movie prefers to focus on what is happening on the screen, with minimal psychoanalyzing, and I have to admit that this approach works for me, as it allows for a good degree of ambiguity in the movie that I like.
The movie suffers from the “slow motion camera” thing where scenes can move at an agonizing crawl as the camera slowly edges an inch an hour, making it seem like characters can take forever to pick up something from the floor. Still, because the scenery can be pretty, ahem, I can survive.
At the end of the day, Eastern Boys serves up complicated emotions, a degree of skin, and a relationship that some people would consider dysfunctional. I find the whole thing fascinating and entertaining to follow, however. Conventional romantic moments, however, are very minimal – these two don’t even kiss – so adjust your expectations if you choose to watch this one.