WARNING: This review contains spoilers.
Eastern Boys (currently shown in cinemas across the UK) is a bittersweet type of love story between a 40-year old Frenchman and a young undocumented Eastern European guy.
The first scene in the movie sets the overall tone as it opens with an uncomfortable flirtation between Daniel and Marek at Paris’ Gare du Nord, as Eurostar shuttle trains depart and arrive in the background. This casual encounter between Daniel and Marek is both unsettling and tense. While pacing up and down the train station, Daniel notices Marek and decides to follow him onto the platform. It’s then that Marek addresses Daniel and the two start talking money in exchange for sex.
On the day of their planned first sexual encounter, Marek’s gang of fellow Eastern European guys turn up at Daniel’s flat and start invading his privacy by making themselves comfortable, talking loudly, drinking and dancing. Intrigued and wary, Daniel nevertheless joins them in their dodgy party atmosphere at his own expense.
Things take a bad turn as the date between Marek and Daniel turns violent. Marek’s crew ransacks Daniel’s posh flat looking for valuables without Marek even stopping them – he witnesses the looting with what appears to be either melancholy or guilt. Daniel is left totally powerless, with the violence heightened by the hypnotic, pulsing soundtrack.
Even if the scene of burglary doesn’t bode well for the relationship between the two guys, Marek apologetically comes back the next day and begs Daniel to forgive him. Uncomfortable with his sexual orientation, Marek feels he is betraying his own community. Physically drawn to the Eastern boy, Daniel starts inviting Marek to his flat and lavishes designers clothes on him.
The first half of the movie is an exploration of Daniel’s unsconscious and his inconsistencies. Daniel is a successful, prosperous man careerwise, but he remains a lonely guy who is looking for something different in life.
Despite the omnipresent danger of Marek being found out, the two keep seeing each other for more than regular hot sex. Little by little, their affair starts resembling coupled life, even if their relationship remains based on money.
Eastern Boys is a very puzzling movie as the relationship between the two men keeps changing as it builts to a sort of ambiguous climax. From this sexual beginning, Daniel and Marek engage in a sort of friendship – or is it love ? – until the day Daniel offers to adopt Marek to make his naturalisation easier.
From this moment on, Eastern Boys takes a Ken Loach-esque turn as the story shifts from complex psychology to a social issue – here, illegal immigration – while keeping all the aspects of a gripping thriller. Not a banal love story at all, the movie explores gay desire with a promising ending.