›› Beyond the Walls - Hors les murs
a film by David Lambert.
2012 | 96 mins | Belgium - Canada - France.
principal players: Matila Malliarakis / Paulo, Guillaume Gouix / Ilir, David Salles / Grégoire, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin / Anka and Flonja Kodheli as Ilir's sister, Elina.
Adapted Synopsis: "Love at first sight beckons when a drunken Paulo finds friendly Albanian bartender Ilir giving him a bed for the night. Only Paulo wants more than just shelter from Ilir, a fact that his girlfriend is all too aware of, duly kicking Paulo out of her apartment and thereafter into the arms, if not the life of Ilir itself. Forced together despite Ilir's initial hesitation, the two soon grow closer, along the way rejoicing in a sensual world that neither knows much about. Only will their love last the test of time?"
Wonderfully crafted, this assured debut feature from Belgian writer and director David Lambert vibrates with an emotional intensity that shakes the screen to its foundation. For this is gay love, laid bare; that of an intense story of love between two men, one that and like Andrew Haigh's celebrated film Weekend is played refreshingly honest and direct, right down to a novel way of deciding who's on top for the night.
For that is what hits you here, that of two men embracing their sexuality, that of same-sex love personified. Only and in as much as this work speaks of commitment, "only yours forever" style, events and by no surprise conspire to force the loving pair apart. The result is a film in two acts, with the first joyously bright as the spark of sexual attraction grows ever stronger, culminating in a passionate scene of man-on-man lip-service that is more the case of "love at first bite." Only look below the surface of Ilir's tough guy persona and you'll find Lambert hard at work, carefully reversing the narrative's "you're all I've got left" line, even if he is far too economical with the facts as to the events that take place in the less dynamic, if all the more poignant, (never has a photo said so much), second act. Between then and close of play however there's a series of lush touches to be savoured, including the vibrant on-screen chemistry between Guillaume Gouix as daddy of the piece Ilir and Matila (Romeo's Kiss) Malliarakis as Paulo; aka the young lover of the besotted looks variety.
Lay all your love on me in Beyond the Walls.
Bottom line, this marks a beautifully realistic study of affairs of the heart. Sure there's pain along the way, in this instance both emotional and in Paulo's case, all out sexual experimentation; S&M style. Indeed and with a spoiler warning firmly in place, in many ways this accomplished feature reminds me of the Sébastien Lifshitz film Presque Rien - Almost Nothing and if you know that work, then you'll have an idea of what to expect in this hauntingly touching cinematic treatise on missed opportunities, life's regrets and of a future ever wondering - what could have been?
The winner takes it all in Beyond the Walls.
Or rather what will be, given Malliarakis and Gouix were re-united on-screen for the acclaimed French supernatural series The Returned, alongside gay indie favourite Pierre Perrier of Cold Showers, Going South and American Translation fame, to name but three. Yet the final word here has to be a technical one, as on the print viewed the English subtitles had the annoying habit of "hanging" until the next spoken word, resulting in dialogue from the prior scene remaining on-screen during moments of silence. This hopefully is now corrected, given camera work and production values are otherwise excellent throughout.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - from the waist up.
Overall - file under ... 4 stars.