The Lawyer ***
Starring: Eimutis Kvoščiauskas, Dogaç Yildiz, Darya Ekamasova, Aistė Diržiūtė
Director: Romas Zabarauskas
When gay corporate lawyer Marius (Kvoščiauskas) loses his estranged father, he begins to feel that his hedonistic life of dinner parties, gallery openings and chasing young men isn’t as fulfilling as he once thought. Logged into a webcam chatroom, he meets Ali (Yildiz), a handsome and charming Syrian asylum seeker. Discovering that he is living in a refugee camp in Belgrade, Marius impulsively heads to Serbia, in an attempt to meet him, woo him and bring him back to Lithuania. Except it’s not as easy to apply for asylum as he thought, even if he does try to play on his lover’s sexuality.
This is one part romance, one part social commentary on the plight of asylum seekers trying to make it into the EU. Ali is bisexual and nobody at home knew about his sexuality. He fled Syria because of his politics instead of his sexual preference, plus he’s never been on the receiving end of homophobia of any form. Using his sexuality to help him gain entry to The European Block is a dead end, despite Marius feeling that he can use his legal training to “save him”. But as Ali says, “A lawyer can’t help when the only ways that will work aren’t legal.”
In terms of its love story, this follows the tried and tested formula stoically, with a significant impediment in the way of the couple’s happiness. The film is atmospheric and suitably brow-beatingly earnest throughout the pair’s plight, but it stumbles in the scenes in which we see them actually happy together. In scenes with a lack of urgency, the script is somewhat staid and inconsequential, and though the chemistry is certainly present, buying into the couple’s relationship feels a stretch at times.
Dogaç Yildiz is a decidedly charming lead and is shot by a director that clearly enjoyed shooting him in his pants. For a film of its kind, it has an impressively moody soundtrack and profoundly efficient editing, even if the cinematography is a little baffling at times – did we really need to plunge the film into monochrome in its late scenes? And a red filter to show their love? Groundbreaking.
Die-hard romantics will love this film, which is a very twenty-first century fairytale of love overcoming all the odds. For the more cynical audience, there are holes that can easily be picked here.
UK Release: Out now on iTunes & Pantaflix via OUTtv, released by OUTtv.