The Lawyer was due to have its world premiere at last month’s cancelled BFIFlare festival. Though the team were unable to have the premiere as anticipated, we here at CineChat had the opportunity to see a preview of Romas Zabarauskas’ third feature film.
The film focuses on the unusual relationship between a Lithuanian lawyer and a Romanian refugee he meets on an online sex cam. Unable to get the connection out of his head, Marius heads to Belgrade to try and support Ali, and see if he can reconnect with his own sense of self.
I found The Lawyer an odd watch. Given that the premise was a love story, I felt very little connection between Marius and Ali for the first two acts, and was apprehensive waiting for Ali to wrong Marius in some way. The romance in the film left me feeling overall cold, which on reflection makes complete sense. The start of the film is set in Lithuania where there are still no legal rights for LGBTQ+ couples, and Zabarauskas himself is an activist of these causes in Lithuania. The Lawyer is the first Lithuanian feature film to focus on a male same sex relationship, so it is only understandable that the depiction of such a romance on the screen might seem cold to a heterosexual woman living in a fairly progressive London.
Whilst it may have not hit the right notes in the romance side, it’s focus on the struggles of refugees struck a chord with me. It’s easy to think that once a refugee leaves the country they are trying to escape from, everything calms down. Zabarauskas is able to highlight the small fragile details of trauma that exist in the life of a refugee, and parts of the film were actually shot in a real refugee camp in Belgrade. Extras seen in those scenes are all refugees living there, and the films crew and cast raised money to support not only those camps, but also the lives of refugees in Lithuania. I was upset earlier this year at the heavy handling of a refugee storyline in Michael Winterbottom’s Greed. Here, a gentler more realistic approach is applied, one that allows us to not see refugees as victims, or survivors, but as fully formed humans, with a spectrum of emotion, joy, sorrow and successes.
Shouldering most of the film between them, lead actors Eimutis Kvoščiauskas and Doğaç Yildiz provide delicate, nuanced performances. Zabarauskas’s writing and direction ensures that this is a truthful story, not a melodrama like I was well expecting. And that’s the tone a story such as this deserves.
Whilst it was not able to be part of #BFIFlareAtHome due to distribution issues, if you are interested in seeing The Lawyer, you can sign up for updates from their official team to be notified when the film becomes available in your area: bit.ly/TheLawyerUpdates
The new BFI Flare at Home programme will be available to be enjoyed in the safety of homes around the UK via BFI Player, the BFI’s VOD service. A special offer for BFI Player’s subscription service will be offered to audiences who had booked for BFI Flare, with general audiences invited to sign up for a free two week trial of BFI Player as well as existing BFI Player subscribers to take advantage of the enhanced BFI Flare collection. Most content will be available as part of the SVOD collection, with some additional titles available for rental/TVOD.
Through its social media channels, BFI Flare will also be hosting live Q&A’s with filmmakers, offering daily curated programmer recommendations of work from the BFI Player Flare collections, and will be bringing the party to living rooms around the UK with a curated closing night DJ set made available as a Spotify playlist, bringing the BFI Flare party vibe to house parties everywhere.