VOD Review - Beyond the Walls (Hors les Murs)

Guillaume Gouix (left) and
Matila Malliarakis in "Hors les Murs"
This film reminded me of another small-time film that was little seen and mostly unknown to American audiences. Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere is about a relationship being torn apart by the fact that one person is put into prison. The other person tries to hold onto the relationship, but the attempt is futile. What made DuVernay's film unique is its centering on a black female and getting that perspective as the main perspective when normally that perspective is an after thought. With this film by David Lambert, the main perspective is that of a young gay man.

It's not that this perspective is unique, but it is different from most. Like with DuVernay's film, it only takes the audience into the prison only when the free man visits the incarcerated one. It never takes the point-of-view of the incarcerated man while he's incarcerated. It keeps us in the shoes of the free man, but, as these kinds of movies are apt to do, it seeks to show how the free man is himself incarcerated in certain ways.

Matila Malliarakis stars as Paolo, a man who lives and is probably from Belgium. Paolo is a pianist who does the music for a silent picture-house. He has a girlfriend but he's literally swept off his feet by Ilir, played by Guillaume Gouix, an Albanian bartender and guitarist. Ilir brings Paolo back to his apartment after Paolo becomes too wasted to get himself home. It's obvious that the two are attracted to each other.

At first, Ilir resists a relationship between him and Paolo. One wonders if Ilir even has feelings for Paolo or not. As the film plays out, one gets the sense that Ilir's reluctance to be in a relationship is due to foreknowledge on his part of the reality that eventually takes place, probably due to past experience. His reluctance is, as he comes to say, a way of protecting himself.

Paolo latches onto Ilir and pushes himself into Ilir's life. Ilir resists but succumbs to Paolo's insistence and constant passion. Paolo doesn't quite know into what he's getting because once Ilir is convinced, he becomes extremely possessive and takes steps to imprison Paolo in metaphorical and physical ways.

Unfortunately, Ilir is actually put into prison soon thereafter on drug and assault charges. He's sentenced for at least a year. This wrecks Paolo and sends him on a tail spin. In addition to the actual, tall, brick wall of the prison, Ilir erects an emotional wall, one that similarly once is erected becomes difficult to bring down or get over. The question at the end of the movie is how each deals with it.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.

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