Breakout star Félix Maritaud is a gripping presence as an emotionally vulnerable sex worker in this intimate, unblinking character study.
We meet Félix Maritaud’s young sex worker, Leo, at the doctor’s in this explicit and hard-hitting character study. At least, we think we do. As the scene plays out, we discover that this is actually a client’s complex role-play scenario. It’s a bleakly funny moment in a drama that’s hardly overflowing with levity but has a deeply humane spirit and empathy to burn.
There’s a lingering irony in the encounter too, which soon becomes evident. Bruised from his frequently violent assignations and with a hacking cough from his drug use and smoking, Leo really does require medical attention.
Maritaud, a standout in the ensemble of last year’s terrific ‘120 BPM’, inhabits Leo with a shy boyishness and furtive survival instincts that regularly let him down. He turns tricks to pay for crack, sleeps rough and hangs out with a small group of male prostitutes waiting for clients on a quiet roadside. As the title implies, Leo exists, Caliban-like, somewhere between civilisation and the wild.
There’s a lot of sex, and writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet presents it frankly. Thanks to the quietly mesmerising Maritaud, there’s real emotion too. While his peers crave an escape from their grim existence (‘Find an old guy,’ one advises), Leo yearns for something meaningful in this transactional world.
Cast and crew