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BERLINALE 2023 Generation

Review: The Lost Boys


- BERLINALE 2023: Zeno Graton makes the leap to feature films with an agonising elopement, a story about emancipation and imprisoned desire

Review: The Lost Boys
Julien de Saint Jean and Khalil Gharbia in The Lost Boys

"If a fish gets trapped in ice, it doesn’t come back to life. It dies." In The Catcher in the Rye, the young hero wonders where the ducks in Central Park go when the water is frozen. The voice we hear is that of Joe - a modern Holden Caulfield, of sorts, whose feelings have caught up with him - at the beginning of The Lost Boy [+see also:
interview: Zeno Graton
film profile
, as he wonders about the fate of these fish who seemed to be a family, but whose hearts has stopped beating. Joe’s heart, on the other hand, beats like a drum. Placed within a juvenile detention centre, he gets through day by day, as if lost in a sea of uniforms, by turns anaesthetised by the repetition of daily chores and exalted by his thirst for freedom. So exalted, in fact, that he escapes, once again, despite the fact that freedom is so close since he’s now approaching adulthood. Joe navigates the agitated ocean of his emotions as best he can, until a new boy shows up. It’s a case of love at first sight when he claps eyes on Willian, a real shockwave. Joe is walking a tightrope: a second chance is opening up before him, but which should he choose? Freedom or desire? This is the question posed by Zeno Graton’s debut feature film which was presented in a world premiere in the 73rd Berlinale’s Generation 14plus line-up.

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Joe and William are floored by passion, surprised to have been caught unawares when love struck where they least expected it, yet unable to resist these life impulses which are bigger than they are. The freedom which awaits Joe is a paradox, as noted by his sentencing judge, because it also involves giving something up.

Zeno Graton makes the audacious and inspired decision to set a passionate love story in a potentially hostile location, but where the biggest hurdles to this passion are unexpectedly complex. It’s not so much the outside world which is opposed to them, but time itself, the impossible patience required to give their love free reign. So Joe and William allow their hearts and their bodies to intertwine, even if it means losing a bit of freedom.

Overall, the film tells a fairly simple tale of love and desire, carried by its two young actors Khalil Gharbia and Julien de Saint Jean, who are stupefyingly in their grace and intensity. They’re magnified by Olivier Boonjing’s photography, which culminates in incredibly beautiful scenes where the young people from the facility discover the art of the camera obscura. A variety of artistic practices subsequently punctuate the tale, resulting in a handful of suspended moments where we see William drawing in black ink on the walls or on Joe’s skin when the latter also allows himself to be carried away, by music (thanks to a wonderful score involving French-Lebanese musician Bachar Mar-Khalifé).

The Lost Boy is produced by Tarantula (Belgium) in co-production with Silex Films (France) and Menuetto (Belgium). International sales fall to Indie Sales.

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(Translated from French)

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