Generally under-represented in queer cinema, the “B” quadrant of LGBT culture gets some gentle, thoughtful attention in David Lambert’s refreshingly polysexual romantic comedy “All Yours.” Tracing the open-ended love triangle that develops when a charismatic Argentine hustler finds himself caught between the affections of a lonely Belgian baker and his female employee, “All Yours” consistently surprises with the maturity and generosity of its emotional outlook, though a third act that flirts with stakes-raising issue drama is a little less sure-footed. Preeming in competish at Karlovy Vary, Lambert’s latest should follow his Cannes-tapped 2012 debut, “Beyond the Walls,” down similar specialty distribution avenues, even if it’s slightly less sexy a sell.
There was a deft balance of practical eroticism and complex domestic detail in Lambert’s debut that evoked the work of U.S. auteur Ira Sachs; the similarity comes to mind once more in “All Yours,” particularly as the writer-helmer asserts something of a stylistic signature in his sophomore feature, repeating the previous film’s soft, airy lighting, steady camera placement and subtle, time-folding editing patterns. Unlike “Beyond the Walls,” whose two stars were practically porn-ready in their masculine beauty, the ensemble in “All Yours” is united by pleasing physical imperfection. That may lend the film a good deal of its everyday resonance and universality; it’d be disappointingly ironic if its commercial curb appeal were unduly affected.
The opening credits promise a racier pic than the one that eventually emerges, as weaselly but oddly charismatic male escort Lucas (Nahuel Perez Biscayar) hawks his full-frontal wares to prospective clients in grainy webcam resolution. Though we’re getting a cheesily hyper-sexualized construction of the real Lucas, there’s nonetheless something beguiling about his boyish, loose-cannon petulance; when he begs online punters to buy him a ticket out of Argentina, it’s not hard to believe that someone will grant his outlandish request. That someone, as we learn in the space of a single, elegant cut, is portly, middle-aged Belgian baker Henry (Jean-Michel Balthazar), first glimpsed in the airport arrival lounge with an expression of heartbreaking excitement etched across his doughy visage.
It’s not hard to surmise, before a single word is exchanged between them, that the shy, unworldly Henry has distinctly unrealistic expectations of their future relationship; those suspicions are confirmed when Lucas reacts with sulky dismay to the news that he is expected to share Henry’s bed every night. The young man is equally unenthused about the work he is expected to perform in Henry’s village bakery in return for room and board, but gradually develops a manner of grudging affection for his opera-singing patron. Lambert charts their relationship with no convenient turning points or intimate revelations, merely a fine-tuned awareness of the comfort that comes with familiarity.
It swiftly becomes obvious, however, that Lucas enjoys a sparkier rapport with French-Canadian bakery cashier and single mother Audrey (the wonderful Monia Chokri, best known for her collaborations with Xavier Dolan), and it’s not long before their initial workplace banter takes a more intimate turn. From here on, none of the film’s conflicts play out exactly as you might expect, as the three principals respond to their improbable menage a trois with more good-humored bemusement than melodramatic animosity. There’s as little judgment among them as there is in Lambert’s perceptive, unhurried script, even when the chickens from Lucas’ past profession come home, somewhat predictably, to roost. If that twist slightly pushes the audience into a position of moral arbitration, Lambert pulls it back together with a finale of big-hearted romanticism, sealed with a perfectly timed kiss.
Individual work within the well-matched ensemble is commendably selfless, though the largest bouquet must go to the wiry, restless Perez Biscayar, who finds reserves of warmth and eccentric intelligence in what could be an all-too-irritating character. Playing up Lucas’ ostensible narcissism would scupper the entire enterprise; instead, much like his two contrasting lovers, we’re seduced against our better instincts.