The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE LOST BOYS | The Movie Waffler


Two young men form a bond while detained in a youth detention centre.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Zeno Graton

Starring: Khalil Ben Gharbia, Julien De Saint Jean, Eye Haïdara, Jonathan Couzinié

The Lost Boys poster

Who doesn’t love a prison film? You do. You keep on voting The Shawshank Redemption the top film ever on IMDB, after all. If you're making small talk with someone and it transpires that they write for a film site you say with authority, "I'll tell you a good film, The Shawshank Redemption, now that's a good film" and you wistfully nod at me. McVicar, Papillion, Alien 3: you just cannot get enough of films about men banged up in the nick (and you probably watch the telly shows which feature women, via a curiously gender split media dichotomy, in similar straits such as OITNB, Prisoner: Cell Block H, Tenko, too). I can see why. I love them, as well. Even an objectively bad prison film is better than an objectively average non-prison film (the two genres), because at least the former takes place in a prison. The concentrated arena of human drama, a darkening grey chroma of morality, the ersatz hierarchies. The slang, the mad little rules, the phones up the arse. Love it.

The Lost Boys review

Based on this acid test, you'll enjoy The Lost Boys (not that one, etc), Zeno Graton's (with script duties shared with Clara Bourreau and Maarten Loix) Belgian borstal drama, too. A glossier contrast to other, grittier British youth custody flicks, The Lost Boys centres on Joe (Khalil Ben Gharbia, our old friend from Peter Von Kant. Scum? YUM, more like) doing a lump of bird in an ideologically liberal facility for what look like ex-male models who chose the wrong catwalk in life... Joe has been sent down for crimes which are linked to his disadvantaged social status, "stunts" which are suggested as more a cry of recognition than anything else. His long-suffering supervisor Sophie (a really good Eye Haïdara) implores him to write a letter of apology to the judge, as parole is a possibility by the end of the month. Problem is, though, that Joe is a kid, and it is really difficult to get teenagers (24 year old Gharbia is playing, slightly unconvincingly, 17) to envision the bigger picture. Instead, in the film's opening moments Joe witters on about fish trapped under the ice - an awkwardly on the nose metaphor which I assume was scripted to efficiently communicate Joe's jejune nature. Does The Lost Boys imply that prison, for all its lack of freedoms and dignity, at least provides somewhere for this, how you say, garçon perdu to find a sense of belonging?

The Lost Boys review

Prob best not to let a frustrated Daily Mail reader near this one, though. There's the food for one thing. Graton regularly frames sequences around communal dining periods, which feature very appetising nosh - an early lunch of pasta pointedly has the big steaming pot placed upon the table, so the young lags can help themselves to seconds. Oliver Twist could never. The wardens are also decent and patient, attempting to engage their youthful charges in creative activities and sports in order to develop esteem and focus energy - at one point the kids are taught to make box cameras! Only an idiot would say a correctional facility is like a holiday camp, but The Lost Boys does depict a detention centre which is utopian in its outlooks and focussed on restoration rather than deprivation. It is a refreshing representation, one which essays the complications of a prison system and its denizens with far more complexity than the usual shivs and showers.

The line, however, is drawn at physical contact and relationships, which restricts (or, looking on the bright side, adds an extra illicit thrill) to Joe's burgeoning relationship with William (Julien De Saint Jean), a bad boy gang member with cheekbones whom he has fallen in desperate love with. Conveniently, the two are placed in cells next to each other and whisper communications at night through a wall which Roland Barthes would refer to as a symbolic code. As part of the central conflict, The Lost Boys positions Joe and William's love as constrained by the prison system, which has draconically imposed partition upon the two. But the thing is that's true of all institutions, really. A sixth form college doesn't have a special room where students can go off and have a cuddle, for instance. Also, these lads don't do too badly, either, managing a good few knee tremblers over their 20-day fling - even one in the open air during a badly chaperoned physical exercise activity. Can you, with a whopping 94% chance of you not being in prison, boast the same?!

The Lost Boys review

Filmed in oppressive medium shots and close ups, with an overwhelming recurrence of the dehumanising orange uniforms the boys wear, we experience the airless intimacy of prison, the pressing closeness of it all (the lads in orange reminded me of the great kid's film Holes - now there’s a borstal film!). However, the conflict of Joe and William's relationship is fairly quotidian and falls into the Sad Gay trope by default rather than design. While their relationship is not endorsed by the screws, it is at least accepted by them and the other inmates, and also they've got the ever-present potential for loving sex; one up on their colleagues, surely. A more interesting aspect of the affair concerns Joe's recidivism, and how far it is inspired by his apparent love for William. Love is only ostensible here because, let's face it, they are both kids, and their relationship is based on the intensified circumstances of their context; a context which Joe, perhaps blinded by the first true affection he has experienced, seems tragically institutionalised by. The Lost Boys intimates towards this narrative thread but doesn't really explore the short-term nature of youthful romance, wherein you go down for a brief time, but which rarely leads to a life sentence.

The Lost Boys is on UK/ROI VOD from February 19th.

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