LE PARADIS (THE LOST BOYS)
ZENO GRATON | FRANCE | 2023 | 83 MIN | FRENCH S.-T.EN.
Joe has a life framed by fences. But despite ethnic barriers and a closely monitored environment where stealing glances feels criminal, not even thick concrete can sever the connection he makes with tattooed newcomer, William. Nothing, perhaps, except freedom itself.
Thrown in a juvenile detention centre for misdemeanours, Joe joins his fellow delinquents in searching for the “single ray of light” that will illuminate their path to freedom. For the introspective Joe (Khalil Gharbia) that’s artsy, angular William (Julien De Saint Jean). Communicating through knocks on the wall at night and creative expression by day, the two sneak lusty, endlessly loving trysts whenever opportunity allows. Left adrift by their parents, the fear of abandonment is still fresh, and when Joe’s potential release looms, their volatile responses make it hard to let go. In Zeno Graton’s affecting, wildly romantic film, the usual homophobia-laced prison drama is eschewed in favour of a deeper exploration of the emotional layers undergirding teenage boys. The viewer left with uneasy answers about what does and does not imprison us that will linger long after viewing.