22-year-old Léo (Félix Maritaud) works the streets selling his body for cash to make ends meet. With a complete disregard for himself and his safety, Léo moves from one sexual encounter to the next and falls for fellow sex worker Ahd (Éric Bernard) who isn’t interested in him. As Léo begins a downward spiral into drugs, he desperately tries to search for love in all the wrong places.
Sauvage is from writer/director Camille Vidal-Naquet and it’s been picking up widespread critical acclaim on the festival circuit. The film is an unflinching portrait of life as a sex worker and at times it’s very difficult to watch. Léo goes through a number of sexual encounters, each one more humiliating and demeaning than the one before. His downward spiral means that he doesn’t really care what happens and he puts himself into horrendous and often dangerous situations.
The film opens with Léo at the doctors having an exam but Vidal-Naquet turns everything on its head by revealing that Léo is actually role-playing with a paying client. It catches you off-guard but it’s only a taste of what’s to come. Early on in the film we see Léo being dismissed by a disabled man after he’s had his thrill because he prefers the look of Ahd and then later Léo is treated as barely human by a couple intent on humiliating, and hurting, him. It’s hard to watch and you can’t help but feel for the character.
Alongside his encounters, Sauvage finds Léo searching for love. He thinks he’s found it in Ahd but his fellow hustler isn’t interested. That doesn’t stop Léo from trying and the tension between the two quickly escalates. Léo’s infatuation with Ahd also means that he can’t see potential love when it’s right in front of him.
At the centre of the film is French actor Félix Maritaud. He gives a fearless performance as Léo, throwing himself into the gritty role and bringing the reality of the character to the fore. It’s his performance that makes you sympathise with the character and you really want him to break the vicious cycle he’s in. Eric Bernard is very good too as Ahd, switching from protective to aggressive in the blink of an eye.
The extras on the disc include a series of deleted scenes, three Anatomy of a Scene featurettes and screen tests. Director Camille Vidal-Naquet opens up about making the film in Writing Sauvage and Félix Maritaud discusses his character in Playing Leo.
Sauvage is a superb film. It’s gritty, it’s emotive and it has characters you want to invest in. The subject matter means the film is pretty heavy and there are some shocking moments. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoyed it. Maritaud really does give a star making performance and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Cast: Félix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla, Philippe Ohrel Director: Camille Vidal-Naquet Writer: Camille Vidal-Naquet Certificate: 18 Duration: 99 mins Released by: Peccadillo Pictures Release date: 3rd June 2019 Buy Sauvage