DVD Review - Aleksandr's Price

It's difficult to watch this movie and not think about all the recent headlines in the news about Russia and its anti-gay laws and policies.

Model and actor Pau Masó stars as Aleksandr, a young Russian immigrant who is brought to the United States illegally as a boy and then is practically orphaned. In order to survive, he starts to work at a gay bar and eventually is pulled into the world of prostitution. As a result, Aleksandr questions his sexuality, wondering if he might be gay.

Written and directed by Pau Masó, the movie makes little to no mention of Mother Russia, but, as an illegal immigrant, the threat exists that Aleksandr could be deported to the former Soviet Union at any time. It's only through Masó's performance, the look in his eyes when he faces that threat, that the audience understands  that Russia is not a place for gay men. Playing up Russia's homophobia would have been beneficial. Yet, for Aleksandr, deportation is a threat, but it's not the only nor the immediate threat. The immediate threat is Aleksandr being able to eat and pay rent.

Aleksandr is just trying to survive day-to-day. He has no family. His friend Emma, played by Samantha Glovin, recommends him for a job. She doesn't know what the job is exactly. Aleksandr learns that it's dancing as a stripper or a go-go boy at a gay bar. One night, Aleksandr meets Keith, played by Josh Berresford, a slightly older gentleman clearly of some wealth who charms him into bed. Aleksandr is unsure about the whole thing, but, at the end of the evening, Keith gives him $500.

Aleksandr is confused. He thought something deeper or more meaningful was happening, something he had never experienced before. In reality, he was too naive to realize Keith's experience was purely a professional one, detached from emotional connection. Aleksandr is further confused when a totally different guy at a totally different bar also approaches him and charms him into bed, and this new man also gives him $500 after they're done with sex.

Aleksandr never mentioned money and had no intention of charging the man anything, so he doesn't understand why he's being perceived by men as an item for sale or as a sex servant for hire. It doesn't stop with these men. More men, even without Aleksandr's prompting, only see him as a piece of pretty meat to be used, to be violated and then tossed aside. This makes Aleksandr not only question his sexuality but also his very identity.

Masó poses an interesting quandary with this movie. Is a person's sense of self built on the perceptions or behaviors of others? Is Aleksandr who he is because of how others treat him? Is he a prostitute because that's how almost every man he encounters looks at him? In Aleksandr's case, the answer might be yes.

Aleksandr pushes back, but, in interesting bits of writing and acting, the more Aleksandr pushes, the more he sinks. Often, Aleksandr will blow up on people who assume or learn the truth about his prostitution. Even though he believes it's his only avenue for survival, he gets angry when people put associated labels on him. Yet, those labels are what's defining him. Masó directs himself and his co-actors very well in this very powerful, psychological and compelling, character study.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but recommended for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 48 mins.


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