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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

The Lost Boys ****


Starring: Khalil Ben Gharbia, Julien De Saint Jean, Eye Haidara 

Director: Zeno Graton 

Country: Belgium

 

Joe (Gharbia – Peter Van Kant) is living in a juvenile detention centre. Due for release very soon, his yearning for freedom is confused by the arrival of William (Saint Jean – Lie With Me), an earnest and darkly appealing young man with whom he shares an intense animal attraction. It isn’t long until Joe is bewildered about his future, knowing that he doesn’t want to remain imprisoned but similarly not wanting to be parted from this boy with whom he shares so much.


Seeped in social commentary, this is a very sympathetic film to those trapped within the system. The entire group of boys is disenfranchised, frustrated and angry, but because they are so young, it feels much easier to look past their history and see a human face. The reasons they are all there gets very little screen-time indeed, meaning that our sympathy lands directly at the feet of these vulnerable young men. It’s only when their wardens interject, constantly reminding them to show contrition and resolution, that we refocus on why they’re there.


The intensity of feeling between Joe and William is palpable. The latter is exceptionally severe, furious at the world but absolutely enamoured of Joe. With the narrative positioned from Joe’s perspective, we feel the sunbeams he feels from William’s black cloud, while everyone else sees only the storm. And we totally get why Joe would fall for him, destructive though he may be. And his presence certainly doesn’t help Joe’s cause for release.


The film dwells heavily on the paradox of the west’s prison system: once you’re in it, it’s very difficult to get out. Setting a romance within that world really does up the ante, with the personal stakes exceptionally high for them both. And the filmmaker does a fantastic job at making this world seem difficult, hard and exceptionally frustrating. Dark, gritty and filled with hopelessness, this is a tragic and sad coming-of-age movie that turns the genre on its head.

 

UK Release: 15th December 2023 in cinemas, released by Peccadillo Pictures

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