Film review by Sara Darling
It may translate to Lost Boys- which was the original vampire movie that stole our hearts in 1987; but the name is the only similarity. The 2023 version is set in a juvenile reform centre, which is an unlikely backdrop for a love story, but the modern tale focusses on boys who are lost and find love, in director Zeno Graton’s debut feature film, Le Paradis.
Inspired by author Jean Genet’s tender queer love tales, the premise is how love conquers all, as two teenage delinquents find love in a Detention Centre. This contemporary setting in Belgium offers a unique and tender representation of solidarity between teenagers who have their own dynamic and chemistry in a world which is dominated by rules and surveillance.
Moody and sensitive, Joe (Khalil Ben Gharbia) comes from a broken home and seems to be at a loss in dealing with the hypocrisy of the system – which one one hand is helping him learn new skills and adjust to independent life, but he consistently rejects by running away. However, it is obvious he doesn’t really want to really leave as the outside world is intimidating, lonesome and loveless.
Sexy new inmate William ( Julien de Saint Jean) is introduced as a sullen and introvert, with his tattoos making him seem tough and intimidating; but to Joe, he is intriguing. An unlikely friendship begins when they bond over a spliff, and you can see the chemistry that they would like to explore. This is the first indication of physical contact that Joe has experienced and is sensitive and tentative – giving the characters power to create their own freedom by desire in a forced environment.
The film references The Catcher in the Rye, quote “If a fish gets trapped in ice, it doesn’t come back to life. It dies” is even more apparent, as Joe is actually nearly at the end of his rehabilitation programme and faces a huge decision, where he is torn between leaving family and moving back into the real world. He is walking a tightrope: a second chance is opening up before him, but which should he choose? Freedom or desire? Seen as a dreamer, the romance has knocked him sideways, and when the time comes for him to leave he doesn’t really want to as there is no love on the outside and it is love that what he needs to actually be free.
Not so much a sexualized story, the time and space is the key to the erotism as everything is played in slow motion, and the viewer is invited into the thought process, which even in the final scene is tender and hopeful.
A must watch for romantics!
Out on December 15th