From France, this darkly sexy drama explores a young gay man’s life through a parallel exploration of his teen years. Filmmaker Christophe Charrier skilfully weaves together these two timelines to dig under the surface, building up to what will clearly be a big event in his life. So if the storylines feel somewhat rushed, the emotional kick is strong.
In the present day, Jonas (Felix Maritaud) is a seriously hot man in his early 30s. He has just been dumped by his boyfriend because he can’t stop himself from having irresponsible sex with almost everyone he meets. Feeling lonely, he takes a trip to his hometown, where he begins flirting with hotel receptionist Leo (Ilian Bergala). But Leo has a connection to Jonas’ past, specifically the summer of 1997, when the teen Jonas (played by Nicolas Bauwens) was still hiding his sexuality from his parents. This was the summer when he met Nathan (Tommy-Lee Baik), a charismatic new kid in school who encouraged Jonas to resist the path everyone expected for him.
The film shifts smoothly between the two time periods, cleverly echoing the physicality of this teen and the man he will become. This also gives more depth to his present-day interaction with various men. These hook-ups are rather vacuous because he seems haunted by guilt about something terrible that happened to him all those years back. As we wait for the revelation, the growing intensity becomes strongly involving.
As he did in Sauvage, the superb Maritaud uses all of his physicality in the role. Earthy and loose, he’s both charming and introspective. And in the flashbacks, Bauwens matches this as a young guy who longs to explore his sexuality with this striking new kid, played with plenty of edge by Baik. Meanwhile as Jonas’ and Nathan’s mothers, Marie Denarnaud and Aure Atike have some very strong scenes of their own.
In the final act, the script closes in on the connections between the past and the present, expanding on the themes while heading to a moment of dark tragedy. This plays out in a brisk way that’s shocking and perhaps a little unsatisfying, since it skims over the much deeper issues involved. But it’s wrenchingly gripping.
Boys (Jonas) is available on VOD/DVD now.