Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys” is an odd film. It starts out so interestingly – the camera follows a group of male hustlers at Gare du Nord Train station in Paris and we see them running, frolicking, hustling. We see them operate wordlessly as if spying. Then a businessman, Daniel, played by Olivier Rabourdin, zeroes in on one, named Maerek, follows him, and they under the stairs. he gives him his address, planning to meet the next day. Someone else arrives the next day, and forces himself into the apartment. Then other young men do, and take over the house – and strips it of its contents. Daniel doesn’t resist, probably because of shame of being found out as gay. Marek then comes back later, and he lets him in, and they develop a sort-of relationship, getting to a point that Daniel gives him a monthly stipend. The last third of the film centers around Daniel helping Marek separate from the gang (the tone of the last third – that of a suspense/action movie – is jarringly different) Emotion wise, we go through a roller coaster, and the ending seems a bit off – you wonder how they arrive to where they eventually end, wherein Daniel becomes a literal father figure to Marek – but darn it if these characters don’t get to you. I found myself caring for these characters and I still think about them.
I had the opposite reaction to the characters in “Mommy.” Set in Montreal, it tells a story of a sassy mother who is taking care of her ADHD-addled son. There is non-stop fighting, screaming by mother and son here. Anne Dorval is the kind of actress who hammers her point by shrieking at the top of her lungs, and after a while you are so exasperated that you stop caring. Yes, I know what director Xavier Dolan is trying to do: he is trying to show you what she is going through, and having you “experience” it. But one hundred twenty nine minutes of it? I can only take so much.