Throughout this entire film my stomach was in a knot. Tied up because it is so sad and a realistic portrayal of the lives of some young men around the world. In this case, we are in France, but it happens in the U.S., all over Europe and right here in Montreal. Young men, who due to life circumstances, have to sell themselves on the streets just to eke out survival. They are usually unhealthy, homeless and addicted to drugs. Their lives are hard with little to no hope of crawling out of the hole they find themselves in. Just depressing. A harsh life brought to screen in all its grime, grit and heartbreak by French director Camille Vidal-Naquet (first feature film).
At the young age of 22, Leo (Felix Maritaud – 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)) is not in a good place and it seems like it has been like this for a long while. Very young and in much trouble. He is homeless and makes a little bit of money via selling himself on the streets. A dangerous life plus he is not physically well. Often he has trouble breathing and suffers from a lingering cough.
Despite all this Leo is rather pure of heart. Looking for love. He thinks he has found it in fellow sex worker, Ahd (Eric Bernard – Cyrano de Bergerac – 1990, 11.6). Ahd is not gay like Leo so he is not willing to have a relationship with a man, not even Leo, who he does have a strange kind of friendship with. Ahd finds himself an older sugar daddy (Joel Villy – first feature film) and advises Leo to do the same. The more Ahd rejects Leo, the more Leo wants him. No matter the cost.
We move through the days and nights of Leo. Seeing how aimless and dangerous his life is. Most tragically is that he lives a life without hope. Without love. Without happiness. You feel bad for Leo due to the man portraying him. Maritaud renders a rather unsavoury character sympathetic. His Leo is innocent and even a little slow of thought. He wants human connection no matter what he has to do to get it. Even when he is with a client. He seeks it. We know what his future looks like. How his life is going to end. Or do we?
Depicting the life of a prostitute in a frank way is nothing new in the world of film. The difference here is that it is about a male prostitute and the violent nature of it all. The viewers’ feelings are not spared. It is brutal watching at times. All the cruelness and recklessness might turn off some. Yet you can look at this as a positive. Leo is not depicted as a victim. He is in charge of how he lives his life. Choice is his. We just have to accept them and their differences.
Vidal-Naquet’s film can also be seen as a look at modernday masculinity. What happens today. What happens when left unchecked. What male friendship can look like. The best scenes in the film involve Leo and Ahd. The community they belong to. The brotherhood that exists between the male prostitures. How they look out for one another and govern each other. Men are depicted as supportive as well as being competitive at the same time.