Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“BLOCK PASS”

THE STORY – Willy and Jojo are childhood friends who never leave each other’s side. To beat boredom, they train at the Pampa, a motocross track. One evening, Willy discovers Jojo’s secret.

THE CAST Amaury Foucher, Sayyid El Alami, Damien Bonnard & Mathieu Demy

THE TEAM – Antoine Chevrollier (Director/Writer), Bérénice Bocquillon & Faïza Guène (Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 104 Minutes


The 77th Cannes Film Festival wrapped up last month after crowning “Three Kilometers to the End of the World” as the recipient of the coveted Queer Palm. Another film that competed for the Queer Palm, “Block Pass,” is the feature-length film directorial debut for Antoine Chevrollier. The movie concerns queerness in a small French community that, much like the events of “Three Kilometers to the End of the World,” is a slightly conservative part of the world that isn’t quite ready for an out-and-proud gay resident.

Newcomer Amaury Foucher stars in the French drama as Jojo, a motocross driver plagued by his controlling father (Damien Bonnard) and the looming championship he must win to make the small town rejoice in pride for their homegrown hero. Utterly charismatic and handsome, Jojo hides his sexuality from those closest to him, including his longtime best friend and avid supporter, Willy (Sayyid El Alami). That is until Willy accidentally walks in on Jojo having sex with another closeted man who both teenagers trust and respect.

Jojo’s secret is for Willy to keep, and it’s only a short time until more people in the community discover what’s been going on underneath the surface. Not only is their friendship tested, but Willy’s urgent need to pass his exams and flee the backwoods sticks he’s called home all his life creates a stressful environment for the young lad. Jojo’s professional career ambitions and Willy’s need to help his friend, whom he considers family, supersedes all other desires.

“Block Pass” is an insatiable tale about outing someone who isn’t ready for the world to see who they truly are, especially at a young enough age that they could change their circumstances if they choose to. Willy and Jojo’s relationship is not only on the line, but the actors who embody the young characters help define the reasons why the audience should care about what happens to either of them. Foucher and Bonnard’s familial characters are strengthened by their determination as performers to lean into father/son clichés while also creating space for both actors to shine in their respective roles.

However, it’s El Alami who shines brightest as Willy, a complicated and shy character who blossoms with the knowledge he’s obtained throughout the film. Charming with a smile that extends from ear to ear, El Alami personifies Willy with grace and humility that counteracts everything Jojo throws at him. There are contentious moments that wield strength after the dust settles, and El Alami makes sure viewers understand just who is right and who might be in the wrong.

For a feature film directorial debut, Chevrollier proves to be a force behind the camera. Sweeping countryside views suggest a tranquil town on the rise. Yet, the indiscretions and outrage that pour into the idyllic sports-obsessed setting provide context to a community hanging on by a thread. Though much of the film deals with friendship and familial relationships, Chevrollier makes it known that this town could be anywhere in the world. Events that transpire between Willy and Jojo not only curb their relationship, but the coming out of a budding sports superstar upends everyone’s plans for these two boys.

“Block Pass” is an intriguing story of the bonds that unite and break us – but it’s nothing new. The premise is a bit tired but also a little fascinating, given the athleticism theme throughout the movie. It’s a standard coming-of-age drama with a bit of a twist that keeps the story grounded. “Block Pass” is an interesting addition to the Cannes Queer Palm slate and a film that should be analyzed by those itching to see representation of queerness at a high level.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - Amaury Foucher might have a long career ahead of him if he continues to make choices like he does in this film, and Sayyid El Alami is perfect in a role that might propel the actor to incredible heights in the future.

THE BAD - The outing of a young gay man struggling with an overbearing father is definitely a cliché, which might turn some audiences off.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Amaury Foucher might have a long career ahead of him if he continues to make choices like he does in this film, and Sayyid El Alami is perfect in a role that might propel the actor to incredible heights in the future.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The outing of a young gay man struggling with an overbearing father is definitely a cliché, which might turn some audiences off. <br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"BLOCK PASS"