Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Original title: Hors Les Murs
Belgium/Canada/France, 2012. Frakas Productions, Boréal Films, Balthazar Productions, Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel et des Télédistributeurs Wallons, VOO, Wallimage, Belgacom, Pôle Image de Liège, Tax Shelter ING Invest de Tax Shelter Productions, Cineart, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Cinéfinance Tax Shelter, Crédit d’Impôt pour la Production Cinématographique ou Magnétoscopique Canadienne, Societe de Developpement des Entreprises Culturelles, Super Écran, Telefilm Canada. Screenplay by David Lambert. Cinematography by Matthieu Poirot-Delpech. Produced by Jerome Dopffer, Daniel Morin, Jean-Yves Roubin. Music by Flonja Kodheli. Production Design by Sebastien Autphenne. Costume Design by Sabine Zappitelli. Film Editing by Helene Girard.
A chance encounter between sexy bartender Ilir and confused young Paolo results in the latter passing out drunk in the former’s bed after a very long party. Paolo later goes home to his frustrated girlfriend and, likely because she’s always in a bad mood, comes to terms with his sexuality and returns to Ilir to begin a passionate love affair. The younger, more naïve member of the couple is clinging to the more established partner for more than just momentary sexual trysts, while Ilir is far more touched by the youthful innocence of this sexy young man with the puppy dog eyes and the tight little body than he is willing to let on. When Ilir crosses the border and gets caught with drugs in his possession, what started out a straightforward relationship is thrown by circumstance into a battle of wills, between the two men as well as between themselves and their ideals. Despite a high level of shrill melodrama that keeps it from having the kind of resonance of a better movie like Weekend, this is a thoroughly satisfying affair due to very appealing characters and genuinely sexy chemistry that makes you forget the surprising lack of graphic imagery (surprising for a French movie in the era of Stranger By The Lake and Our Paradise, that is). These boys know how to have a good time together, but there is as much deeply felt intimacy in scenes where Matila Malliarakis‘s Paolo falls apart when visiting Ilir in jail, or even the loosely sexy fun of arm wrestling. The only false note the film strikes is Paolo’s girlfriend, casting the excellent Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin as a one-dimensional shrew who is unfairly judged by the director as someone foolish enough to think that her obviously gay boyfriend will make her happy if she just nags him constantly; it’s an unintelligent characterization of the one opportunity to have a female protagonist, and as such should have been left out if a better one could not have been created.