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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 23 September 2013
I had high hopes of Beyond The Walls because it was screened at the Cannes Festival and is clearly on a gay subject, but for me it fails to live up to expectations. It tells the story of Ilir and Paolo, who embark on an unexpected, very sexual affair that veers dangerously into obsessional territory for the insecure Paolo, before danger comes to a head in another form, and Ilir goes to prison for being caught using drugs. After a promising start it seemed to lurch into more extreme territory which the screenplay didn't make convincing. It's as though the film is led by ideas scene by scene rather than forming a convincing whole. It is not helped by the relentless focus on four characters only, so that any exploration of the two men's cultural identities doesn't really enter into the equation. Before Albanian Ilir goes to prison, the action is more or less confined to flats, the toilets at a Paris station and a sex shop with only him, Paolo and the latter's girlfriend in the picture. It doesn't match the intensity of, say, Robert Bresson's A Man Escaped or L'Argent, or, in terms of gay cinema, Weekend or Keep The Lights On (both also from Peccadillo Pictures) which the amazon blurb compares it to. On the plus side, the two leads do form a convincing alliance and their faces have something memorable both singly and in combination, as they are very different, but I found it increasingly thin in the second half, and not that substantial in the first, where minimal context for their lives is given.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 13 September 2013
Paulo is an aspiring pianist who is living with his long suffering girlfriend Anka. He has a penchant for being a bit bi- curious and his contretemps are starting to wear thin. Then one night he has `one too many' at a bar and the rather accommodating barman takes him home. This is gay Albanian bass playing Ilir (Guillaume Gouix `The Returned' TV series). Nothing happens but the following day it is clear that there is a spark between the two men. So they decide to meet again - just for a drink etc.

Well one thing leads to another and before you can say `my place or yours' they are at it like sex starved teens. Then Paulo has to return home and is called out by Anka, he tries denying it but eventually she has had enough and asks him to get out. He has nowhere to go so goes back to Ilir, who is not keen at first but gives in and lets him stay. They soon become emotionally embedded with each other despite the cultural differences. This includes visiting a rather well stocked sex shop.

Then Ilir has to go away for a few days but they have now decided that they are in love and are made for each other. Paulo waits eagerly for the return and nothing happens. What does happen though will be a test of their bond and of their actual self awareness and feelings for each other.

This makes for an utterly absorbing film. Whilst dealing with gay issues it is more about relationships and how we find our way in the world. I was captivated almost from the beginning and was pulled in by the on screen chemistry that the two manage to bring. There is hardly any bedroom stuff either, but that is not a problem for me. It is well acted, brilliantly directed and made with bags of love. It is in both French and Albanian with really good sub titles. This is a film that deserves a lot more attention and I can only recommend.
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on 30 August 2014
brilliant movie loved every moment of it, acting and directing was sincere and sympathetic to a harsh love affair giving it an real story feel, no heroes, no villains, no sentimentality used and just portrayed two people in love in an impossible situation. If only all movies were acted and directed in the way.
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on 22 June 2014
Paul Anthony Burnett
22/06/2014 - Review

Beyond The Walls

David Lambert’s ‘Beyond The Walls’ is one of those rare films that resonates long after initial viewing. This is due, in part, to the accomplished, nuanced lead performances by Guillaume Gouix and Matila Malliarakis. Indeed, it is the compelling chemistry between the two actors that provides an important foundation for the narrative and Lambert uses this to great effect. Rather than relying on a literal exposition of plot and character, Lambert presents their expressive faces as virtual canvases to reveal greater depths of emotion and motivation. It is clear that both lead actors have cultivated meaningful subtext to enhance their roles and Lambert allows the viewer to access this information via luminous, detailed close-up shots, where their faces dominate the frame. Consequently, much is eloquently communicated through expression and gestures.

The early scenes accurately capture the euphoric anticipation of new romance as the two young musicians meet amidst the grey, wintery hues of urban Brussels. Initially, it is Ilir (Guillaume Gouix), an Albanian immigrant, who is hesitant to submit to Paulo’s needy advances. However, their shared sensibilities - that is a mutual love for music, humour and sexual experimentation - soon morphs into an intense bond.

An atmospheric, melancholic texture pervades the film. When not together, Ilir and Paulo often appear to be two lonely figures negotiating a potentially hostile metropolis - only finding comfort when they connect in the close-quarters of Ilir’s apartment or in the darkened venues where they play their music. Lambert’s stylistic ability to contrast the illumination of the actors’ faces with the broader noirish texture of the urban environment yields quite poignant results. There is a pervading implication that there may be darker issues lurking beneath the surface of the couple’s lives and this is fully realised when Paulo’s needy personality is unveiled to reveal a much more problematic, sadomasochistic psyche.

Ultimately, Paulo’s vulnerability is severely compounded when Ilir’s unexpected imprisonment forces them apart. This dramatically alters the dynamics of the relationship and Ilir's status as protector is gradually eroded. Correspondingly, Paulo’s driving motivation to be emotionally and materially cared for is recalibrated.

The later scenes, when the couple rent a hotel room in the futile attempt to summon feelings that have been irrevocably damaged, are quite devastating. It is during these abrasive moments that Gouix’s artistry yields the greatest impact as the painful loss of Paulo registers on his face. Also, it is between the spaces of Lambert’s eloquent and penetrating script that he elicits further nuance from his actors. For instance, the film is punctuated by moments when Ilir seems lost in a state of meditative reverie. He periodically immerses himself in a trance-like, peaceful refuge from the turmoil or everyday concerns of the world that surrounds him. This occurs at intimate moments - when he is observing a performance, listening to music, watching a film, making love and even in moments of despair.

Similarly, Malliarakis adds texture to his roll through creative flourishes such as varying tonality of voice, nervous gestures, and exclamations of sometimes animal-like pleasure. Even the impassive body language he adopts in response to Ilir’s long awaited return speaks volumes about where he has already decided his future alliances lay.

This analysis of an exciting filmmaker and his talented leading actors reminds us that we should not underestimate just how much we can learn, not only from the art of filmmaking, but from the broader discipline of the humanities in general. There is much consolation to be gained through experiencing representations of our own lives and feelings in cinema. This shared experience is even more important today, in an era when the genre of ‘gay-themed’ cinema can be so pre-occupied with light comedy, stereotype and the evasion of grittier subject matter.
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on 13 December 2013
I found this film engaging but I'm not really sure why. I won't spoil the ending because, in many respects, there is no ending. Hollywood likes everything tidy with a beginning, a middle and an end. Preferably happy. This film does none of the above. We are introduced to the characters straight away - not much about their backgrounds is given and you are left to make inferences. The younger of the two - we learn nothing about except that he is exceptionally needy and wants to be looked after. The Albanian becomes the object of his affections and his neediness. You don't get the impression that it is a role he objects to too much.

Their relationship is very intense but involves only three meeings and more time should have been allowed to develop their dependence on one another. It is only when the Albanian is sent to prison that the relationship is explored. Again it is rather ambiguous because the prisoner becomes dependent on the young man, thinks it will destroy him and takes drastic action.

Following the younger man as he seeks to establish himself in a new relationship is strange I have to say. It isn't particularly pretty. He allows himself to be looked after alright but not in the way one would have expected.

The reunion of both men after a year or so is honest and portrayed very well by both actors. It is not what you expect at all but is probably the only real answer outside Hollywood. It is very well acted, directed and some of the scenes are heart wrenching but it is not a feel good film by any means. Worth watching.
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on 10 June 2016
I had some laughs watching this film, despite how the story turned out. Such chemistry between the 2 leads, I hope they work together on another film.

The acting was so good, you could just read their faces.
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on 19 August 2016
Well acted I just would like a little more understanding to what happened between the characters in the end. But the DVD was in good conditions and all thank you
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on 27 April 2015
Great film in so many ways. The lead actors work well together. As other reviewers have said, the film resonates long after viewing.
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on 17 September 2014
This is an absorbing and well made film. The central characters are well portrayed and beautifully acted. An exceptional film.
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on 1 March 2014
Quite one of the best gay films I've seen in ages. Wonderfully acted and directed it is both moving and at times, funny. This is a portrayal of life as it really is reflecting both the joys and sorrows of love.
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