The Lost Boys (2023) is a powerful and politically resonant film directed by Zeno Graton. Set in a youth detention centre, the film explores the blossoming relationship between two young men, Joe (played by Khalil Ben Gharbia) and William (played by Julien De Saint Jean). Their love story unfolds against the backdrop of incarceration, raising questions about the value of freedom and the transformative power of love. This unique and moving queer coming-of-age tale premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on 15th December as well as being available on digital platforms.
The Lost Boys takes us into the world of Joe, a teenager who is preparing to leave the youth detention centre. As he eagerly awaits his freedom, a new inmate named William arrives and sparks an instant connection with Joe. The film beautifully captures the sense of longing and hope that arises from their burgeoning relationship. Joe finds himself torn between the promise of freedom and the sense of belonging and hope that William offers him.
Graton’s direction and the cinematography by Olivier Boonjing create a powerful visual narrative that immerses the audience in the confined and oppressive environment of the youth detention centre. The opening shots, with their focus on the high brick walls, barbed fences, and CCTV cameras, effectively establish the setting and convey the sense of confinement and limited freedom within the institution. The use of medium shots and close-ups throughout the film further intensifies the feeling of airlessness and intimacy within the prison walls.
The Lost Boys goes beyond the conventional portrayal of incarceration by presenting a detention centre that emphasises restoration and rehabilitation rather than punishment. The film highlights the efforts of the supervisors and instructors to provide education, creative activities, and sports to the young detainees, aiming to develop their self-esteem and redirect their energy. This refreshing representation challenges the notion that incarceration is solely about deprivation and punishment, offering a more complex and nuanced perspective on the value of such institutions.
One of the central themes of The Lost Boys is the exploration of love and desire in a constrained and restrictive environment. The detention centre strictly prohibits physical contact and relationships between the inmates. However, Joe and William’s love defies these restrictions, as they engage in secret communication through the wall that separates their cells. The film subtly portrays the challenges and tensions that arise from their forbidden romance, highlighting the resilience and strength of their love in the face of adversity.
The performances of Khalil Ben Gharbia and Julien De Saint Jean are remarkable, bringing depth and authenticity to their characters. They effortlessly convey the emotional complexity of their roles, portraying the intense chemistry and connection between Joe and William. The subtle gestures, glances, and moments of intimacy between the two actors create a palpable sense of longing and desire. Their performances anchor the film, allowing the audience to fully invest in the love story and the characters’ journey.
While The Lost Boys primarily focuses on the love story between Joe and William, it also explores the flaws and complexities of the justice system. The film raises questions about the effectiveness of incarceration in addressing the underlying issues faced by young offenders. It highlights the systemic barriers and societal prejudices that often perpetuate a cycle of criminality and hinder the rehabilitation of these individuals. The Lost Boys invites viewers to reflect on the value of incarceration and the need for more compassionate and inclusive approaches to justice.
The release of The Lost Boys comes at a time when discussions around juvenile crime and the treatment of young offenders are increasingly relevant. The film serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of addressing the root causes of criminal behavior and providing support and guidance to those in need. It invites society to reevaluate its approach to youth detention and to prioritize rehabilitation and integration rather than punishment.
The Lost Boys is a remarkable debut film by Zeno Graton that skillfully combines themes of love, longing, and liberation within the confines of a youth detention centre. With its powerful performances, thought-provoking storytelling, and nuanced portrayal of incarceration, the movie leaves a lasting impact on its audience. It challenges societal norms, encourages empathy, and invites us to consider the transformative power of love and the need for a more compassionate and inclusive justice system.