Immigration is a huge political issue across Europe. Whilst the media like to deal in sensationalist headlines and scaremongering, it’s often left to cinema to paint a more humane and empathetic picture. Over the last few years we’ve been graced with Sin Nombre, Biutiful, The Golden Dream and the wonderful Le Harve, amongst many others. Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys investigates the exploitation suffered by illegal immigrants on the streets of Paris.
A young male hustler, Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), is approached for sex by an older man, Daniel (Olivier Rabourdin), on the street, and agrees to visit his apartment on the next day. When Daniel answers the door, he’s greeted by a young boy who enters his flat. Then, the rest of the gang follow. They are led by the ‘Boss’ (Danil Vorobyev), who after insisting on having a party in Daniel’s home, makes off with most of his valuables. However, Marek returns the next week and the pair form a financial relationship, which evolves into something much more. The Boss isn’t just going to let him leave the gang though.
Eastern Boys is an impressively observed piece of cinema. It would have been easy for Robin Campillo to ape the Hollywood stereotype of evil Eastern European gangs. Instead, he paints them both as the victims and villains of the piece. There’s past trauma which drives Marek on, and Daniel manages to see behind his cock-sure exterior. Despite looking distractingly like Kevin Spacey, Olivier Rabourdin puts in an exceptional nuanced performance. Eastern Boys is an impressive entry into a growing sub-genre of film.
Eastern Boys is released on DVD and Blu-ray by Peccadillo Pictures today.