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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An Intense Belgian Drama Of Love Found And Love Lost: A Cute Romance Morphs Into Tragic MelodramaAug. 29 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
There seems to be a recent surge of what I like to think of as neo-realism in terms of gay cinema on the international scene. Instead of some of the more flamboyant or fantastical representations, we've got gritty working class dramas that feature regular guys who just happen to like guys. Not silly comedies and not classic coming-of-age tales, these stories address the difficulties and the joys of adult gay relationships. These smaller independent films speak much more to the nuance of actual situations and real interactions and, as such, are progress in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, I like the lighter fare as well but I enjoy the more grown-up viewpoint immensely. David Lambert's "Beyond the Walls" fits nicely into the genre of films recently populated by critical hits such as "Keep The Lights On" and "Weekend." (On a side note, if you haven't seen the British indie "Weekend" by Andrew Haigh, it is a near-perfect examination of one relationship in microcosm over the course of an intense weekend). The Belgian feature "Beyond the Walls" is a long way from perfection, to be absolutely blunt, but still has plenty of ambition and much to recommend it.
The film opens with a standard introduction that falls somewhere between a meet-cute and a meet-sleazy. Paulo (Matila Malliarakis) is out with his friends in a local bar and soon finds himself passing out drunk, but not before catching the eye of the hunky Albanian bartender Ilir (Guillaume Gouix). Apparently Paulo's friends aren't very good friends because they abandon him and they are never seen or referenced again. Ilir literally carries Paulo home and in the morning, they share some awkward breakfast chatter. Paulo is in a committed relationship with a woman (they appear to have zero in common and no chemistry), but seems prone to frequent straying. The men are intrigued by one another and Paulo pursues something of a more intimate nature. When Paulo's girlfriend challenges him, he soon accelerates the relationship with Ilir and what was a casual hook-up turns into something far more serious. Just as the men get to know each other better and fall in love, something will tear them apart. I won't reveal any major plot points. Let's just say that a cute picture about blossoming romance soon morphs into a tragic melodrama.
Ultimately, my reservations about "Beyond the Walls" all stem from this plot development. While it is easy to enjoy the quirks of their initial courtship, neither really gets a sympathetic treatment in the film's second half. It's hard to see this as a sweeping and undying love so the tragedy is less successful than it should be. I liked that writer/director Lambert didn't shy away from creating these problematic characters. But based on what is presented, I just never bought it. Paulo, in particular, is manipulative and co-dependent always relying on others to take care of his needs. After the separation, he is alone for a bit and the practical side of me kept wondering how he was paying any bills or feeding himself. Yes, he is shown twice playing the piano at a silent film theater (one of those only-in-the-movies jobs) but it doesn't seem like a particularly lucrative occupation.
Despite my concerns, however, the film still boasts two intriguing performances. Malliarakis is quite believable as this man-child, and Gouix easily pulls off an intensity that is both appealing and a little dangerous. There are a number of great confrontations when things turn more serious and the acting is stellar. In the end, I think we were supposed to be emotionally devastated by this piece and it just didn't connect with me on that level. Very good introduction, less convincing as an overwrought tale of love gone wrong. It is very much like two different movies. Still worth a look, I'd give the experience 3 1/2 stars and round up for the lead performances. KGHarris, 8/13.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A French Albanian Gay love storySept. 13 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Paulo is an aspiring pianist who is living with his long suffering girlfriend Anka. He has a penchant for being a bit bi- curious and his contretemps are starting to wear thin. Then one night he has `one too many' at a bar and the rather accommodating barman takes him home. This is gay Albanian bass playing Ilir (Guillaume Gouix `The Returned' TV series). Nothing happens but the following day it is clear that there is a spark between the two men. So they decide to meet again - just for a drink etc.
Well one thing leads to another and before you can say `my place or yours' they are at it like sex starved teens. Then Paulo has to return home and is called out by Anka, he tries denying it but eventually she has had enough and asks him to get out. He has nowhere to go so goes back to Ilir, who is not keen at first but gives in and lets him stay. They soon become emotionally embedded with each other despite the cultural differences. This includes visiting a rather well stocked sex shop.
Then Ilir has to go away for a few days but they have now decided that they are in love and are made for each other. Paulo waits eagerly for the return and nothing happens. What does happen though will be a test of their bond and of their actual self awareness and feelings for each other.
This makes for an utterly absorbing film. Whilst dealing with gay issues it is more about relationships and how we find our way in the world. I was captivated almost from the beginning and was pulled in by the on screen chemistry that the two manage to bring. There is hardly any bedroom stuff either, but that is not a problem for me. It is well acted, brilliantly directed and made with bags of love. It is in both French and Albanian with really good sub titles. This is a film that deserves a lot more attention and I can only recommend.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Gritty, emotional story of two flawed characters in love.Sept. 6 2013
- Published on Amazon.com
Paulo (Matila Malliarakis) is a somewhat naïve young man, living with a girlfriend with whom he has a mostly platonic relationship. One night, he goes out drinking with friends, and overdoes it, but not before he is noticed by the hunky bartender, Ilir (Guillaume Gouix), who takes him to his place to sleep it off. Ilir stirs some feelings in Paulo that he is not yet comfortable about, but the older man is patient and lets their chemistry develop slowly. Eventually, Paulo's girlfriend gets wind of what is happening, and throws him out, at which point Ilir - who prefers to keep his options open - reluctantly agrees to take him in. Their relationship grows into love, until Ilir has to travel with a band he is in, leaving the codependent Paulo waiting anxiously for his return. Unfortunately, situations develop that could keep them apart forever, and Paulo must consider other options, which could result in a drastic change in his life.
I commend the screenwriter and director for providing realistic/gritty characters with no shortage of personal baggage, yet who seem to be on a path to making a relationship work. The two leads give an outstanding performance in their roles, and the emotional melodrama seems fairly real. Definitely not a "feel good" movie, and it does get into somewhat dark sexual situations, though no nudity (Not rated, would be a heavy R due to content). In French with English sub-titles. DVD has no extras other than trailer. I give it four stars out of five.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Unfortunate Slices from a Couple of Profoundly Sad LivesFeb. 14 2014
Marketing Professor in Connecticut
- Published on Amazon.com
I could not wipe the smile from my face at the start of this movie because there was a lot of metaphorical falling going on. From the first time the two central characters meet, they fall drunkenly into bed (no sex, though). They fall into a sexually tense, but chaste, friendship. Next, they fall into a sexually passionate friendship. Then, they fall into a tense, uncomfortalbe living arrangement. Soon, they fall in love in a delightfully blissful manner.
Just as the couple's lives are going great, the defecation hit the oscillator. Through a series of events, both characters free-fall into an emotional, downward spiral of psychological and physical pain beyond anything I could have guessed or imagined. The beautiful, male, Albanian character is imprisoned, beaten, facially scarred, and spiritually broken. The beautiful, male, French character is abandoned and lost. Out of economic necessity he accepts the attention and affection of an older, wealthier French man who helps the VERY young man (code for twink) to explore his interest in very rough sex. What? Monsieur Le Twink quickly becomes Monsieur Le Masochiste? Ohhhhhkaaayy.
I've never seen a French film with an upbeat ending, and this film follows that pattern of downbeat conclusions. Both fellows move sadly into the next phases of their lives, and while both grieve for what they have lost, they both seem committed to moving on with their lives, albeit in completely opposite directions.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
French surpriseFeb. 15 2014
- Published on Amazon.com
On the back cover, the gorgeous young blonde boy Paulo, meets the older more worldly Ilir and the young man fallsin love while Ilir tries to keep him at arms length and finally starts to love him too. Ilir goes on a weekend trip and when Paulo finds where he is there is nothing but heartache and turmoil. I won't say more, don't want to spoil it. Both leads were spectacular actors as well as very attractive, which doesn't hurt. It is in French with English sub-titles which I don't mind, there is no other option. Loved it, loved it, loved it.