Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB
Alternate Title: Sauvage/Wild
France, 2018. Les Films de la Croisade, La Voie Lactée, Centre National du Cinema et de L’Image Animee, Région Grand Est, Eurométropole de Strasbourg. Screenplay by Camille Vidal-Naquet. Cinematography by Jacques Girault. Produced by Emmanuel Giraud, Marie Sonne-Jensen. Music by Romain Trouillet. Production Design by Charlotte Casamitjana. Film Editing by Elif Uluengin.
Leo sells his body on the streets of Paris, standing on the roadside waiting for customers to pick him up and pay him to fulfill their desires. It’s not the glamorous side of sex work usually seen in movies that he is experiencing, his customers are rough, he spends most nights sleeping on the street and is always wearing the same, dirty clothes. He is ignoring a pesky cough but continues his precarious, sometimes degrading existence, at 21 seeing no point in seeking anything other than the next customer or next drug high. He does a double-team job with fellow hustler Ahd, a more career-minded professional who takes pity on this hopeless young man, and Leo falls in love with Ahd and becomes obsessed with him despite the fact that he is only gay for pay and not interested in anything other than trading sex for cash. What this film has set up exceptionally well, a credible environment and performances that feel like they’re out of a documentary, gives way to a very predictable storyline that updates My Own Private Idaho as Leo’s increasingly dire willingness to subject himself to harm is in direct proprotion to his desperation for love and affection. A scene of Leo reaching out for tenderness from a doctor who is treating his ailments is deeply moving, a credit to how appealing Félix Maritaud is in the lead role despite being so convincingly filthy in every scene, but other elements play out with shockingly mundane predictability: when Ahd tells Leo about the one dangerous client that everyone should stay away from, does anybody not already know that he will eventually go to him when he reaches rock bottom? Director Camille Vidal-Naquet does a great job of presenting the vulnerabilities of sex work without coming across a judgmental puritan about them, this isn’t a lecture on love versus sex, and the realities of the clientele and their desires are presented without much editorializing, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the story has few surprises to offer.