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  • Writer's pictureJamie

Disco Boy - Review

Disco Boy is a misleading title for this 2023 Berlin Film Festival nominated drama. Walking in, I’m expecting some ABBA, flair jeans and disco balls. Instead, we get a pretty heavy and abstract storyline about immigration and the journey one man goes on from fleeing Belarus, in search of a better life in France. With some unique and creative cinematography, Disco Boy takes us on a journey through Aleksei’s self discovery, through some interesting and narratively questionable ways.

Aleksei (Franz Rogowski sets out with his friend to party in France, with some unforeseen circumstances halting that progress and throwing his life in a whole new direction. He joins the military in order to become a French citizen, meeting people along the way that help inform more of his character and the world around him. This story is intercut with Jomo’s (Morr Ndiaye) story. He is a guerrilla fighter in a village in the Niger Delta. Their paths cross when Aleksei’s French militia platoon is sent to rescue some kidnapped French citizens.  

This meeting changes both of their lives forever, sending them on a path that Aleksei couldn't have predicted when journeying from Belarus. 

The film boasts a lot of creative liberties when it comes to its narrative and visual presentation, using some dream sequences and manifestations of emotions to convey a point. For me, a lot of these story choices didn’t work. The intention seemed to be that it would deepen or showcase emotion through these choices however, it took me out of the flow of the story and made it difficult to connect to Aleksei’s journey. 

The connection between Aleksei and Jomo’s story also seems to come from nowhere which does seem like quite the jump in time and development that we’re not shown. 

However, visually, the film mostly worked for me. There are some choices which I wasn’t on board with but for the most part, the “out there” camera work was effective in heightening tension or slowing down the story in the right way. 

The performances in the film are where it shines, with Rogowski doing his usual emotionally intelligent portrayal. He navigates languages through his performance with a distinct care for the development of Aleksei. I don’t think the writing of this character was the most effective but I could see that Franz was invested in his story and wanted to do him justice. Jomo, along with the villagers around him create a warmth and sense of community through their roles. This is a welcomed addition to the film, contrasting nicely against the military story being told on Aleksei’s side. 

So while Disco Boy wasn’t a win for me, there are certainly elements that I appreciated a lot in this film and the risks it takes makes me excited to see more from Giacomo Abbruzzese as a director. The aesthetics and vision is something that feels inherent in this film, one that is not made for the sake of making a film. It's one that has a lot of care into its story which leads to a hopeful and bright future for any other projects that we get from this team.


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