You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beyond the Walls

On the heels of "Weekend" and "Keep the Lights On," the arthouse normalization of the gay romance continues apace in "Beyond the Walls," a carefully crafted, gently moving debut feature from Belgian writer-director David Lambert.

With: Guillaume Gouix, Matila Malliarakis, David Salles, Melissa Desormeaux Poulin.

On the heels of “Weekend” and “Keep the Lights On,” the arthouse normalization of the gay romance continues apace in “Beyond the Walls,” a carefully crafted, gently moving debut feature from Belgian writer-director David Lambert. Charting the accelerated initiation and gradual dissolution of an affair between two moonlighting musicians from Brussels, Lambert’s film engagingly depicts the head-rush of early attraction, but loses momentum when cruel circumstances disrupt the relationship, pulling focus to the less appealing half of the central couple. Compact, well-acted pic should be welcomed by gay festivals and niche distribs, but is likely too muted for crossover success.

Beyond the Walls” isn’t done many favors by its title: Generic and easily confused with any number of previous films, it’s also an odd fit for a picture whose strength lies very much in its between-four-walls intimacy. If not as sexually frank as other notable recent queer dramas (though a few scenes deal wittily with sadomasochism-for-beginners), Lambert’s script, allegedly drawn from several of his own previous relationships, demonstrates a keen grasp of banal bedroom politics, with the power dynamic between its respectively bearish and boyish protagonists becoming less concrete as their relationship progresses.

The film begins about as swiftly as the affair does: Drinking heavily with friends at a trendy city bar, callow blond Paulo (Matila Malliarakis) locks eyes with hulking Albanian bartender Ilir (Guillaume Gouix) and wakes up the next morning in Ilir’s bed. Cue an intensive series of hook-ups between the men, the only obstacle being the bisexual Paulo’s seamstress girlfriend, Anka (Melissa Desormeaux Poulin), who gets wise to his exploits and throws him out of their apartment. When Paulo, homeless, falls on the other man’s mercy, Ilir senses their living together is premature, but relents anyway.

What follows is a blissful honeymoon period of sorts, unceremoniously curtailed when Ilir leaves town for a weekend away and never returns. Word slowly comes to the panicked Paulo that his boyfriend is serving 18 months in prison for hash possession, effectively severing the relationship. Clingy and deceptively manipulative, Paulo is eventually instructed by Ilir, conscious of maintaining his tough-guy image in the clink, not to visit him any more. This decision comes as an obvious blow to Paulo — and to the audience, now forced to spend significantly more time in his whiny, weak-willed company, while the prison experiences of the sturdier, less neurotic Ilir remain offscreen. Character reservations notwithstanding, the thesps are attuned both to each other and to the script’s subtle shifts in characterization.

Their eventual reunion is handled with a tender ambiguity that presses on the heart without leaving auds convinced that the two are meant to be — not that the middle-aged sex-shop proprietor Paulo takes up with seems much more suitable a companion. The melancholy final act, haunted by missed chances and next-best solutions, underscores cinema’s scarcity of happy endings for gay men even in their own stories.

Technically, the pic reps a somberly handsome package for its budget, and Mathieu Poirot Delpech’s dusky, textured widescreen lensing reps an attractive asset. Musical choices are interesting throughout, with Canadian art-pop collective Valleys contributing dreamily mournful songs, while Paulo’s night job — a piano accompanist at a silent-movie revival house playing Victor Sjostrom’s “The Wind” — pays off in this department, too.

Beyond the Walls


Production: An Epicentre Films presentation of a Frakas Prods. production, in co-production with Boreal Films and Les Productions Balthazar. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Jean-Yves Roubin, Daniel Morin. Directed, written by David Lambert.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Mathieu Poirot Delpech; editor, Helene Girard; production designer, Sebastien Autphenne; costume designer, Sabine Zappitelli. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Critics' Week), May 21, 2012. Running time: 95 MIN.

Cast: With: Guillaume Gouix, Matila Malliarakis, David Salles, Melissa Desormeaux Poulin.

More Scene

  • Katie HolmesAT&T Presents: Untold Stories Luncheon

    Katie Holmes, Kal Penn Help Decide Winner of $1 Million Filmmaker Grant

    Tribeca Film Festival and AT&T gave one young filmmaker a million and one reasons to rejoice at the “Untold Stories” third annual competition. After a nerve-wracking 10-minute long pitch in front of over 850,000 live stream audience members and a panel consisting of celebrities and industry leaders, filmmaker Kate Tsang was awarded $1 million Monday [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

  • Patrick Page, Amber Grey, Eva Noblezada,

    'Hadestown' Took 12 Years to Get to Broadway, but It's More Relevant Than Ever

    When “Hadestown” was first staged as a tiny, DIY theater project in Vermont, those involved could never have predicted that it was the start of a 12-year journey to Broadway — or how painfully relevant it would be when it arrived. At Wednesday night’s opening at the Walter Kerr Theatre, the cast and creatives discussed [...]

  • Mick Jagger

    Mick Jagger Makes First Post-Surgery Appearance at Rolling Stones Ballet Premiere

    Rock legend Mick Jagger made his first public appearance post-heart surgery on Thursday night to catch a glimpse of the world premiere of the Rolling Stones ballet “Porte Rouge.” “I hope you are going to enjoy this wonderful new ballet, and, of course, the music,” the frontman declared in a pre-recorded message to the audience [...]

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content