Aleksandr (Pau Maso) is an illegal Russian immigrant living alone in New York. Left without anyone and anything, Aleksandr's leans on a therapist (Anatoli Grek) and friend Emma (Samantha Glovin). Emma helps in the way that she can which, in this case, means a referral for a gay strip club.
Aleksandr fits the part. He's fit. He's beautiful to look at and he has a sort of mysterious sensuality about him. Aleksandr isn't really sure he's gay, but he needs to survive and this is a way to do so. He meets a handsome stranger (Josh Berresford) who takes him home and, well, you probably can guess the rest.
Aleksandr is paid for his effort. He has become, rather accidentally, a prostitute. It isn't long before Aleksandr is increasingly involved in the darker, more brutal underground of New York and, as one might expect, this involvement is occasionally lucrative and occasionally emotionally and physically devastating as Aleksandr's "requests" for service are increasingly demanding, increasingly vulnerable, and increasingly costly to his physical welfare and emotional psyche'.
Aleksandr's Price centers around the performance of Maso, whose involvement in the film is essential both on-screen and off-screen. Maso does a credible job of portraying the vulnerable desperation of a young man left on his own in a place where being alone is a dangerous place to be. As Maso's Aleksandr tries to come to terms with what he's becoming and the choices he is making, he's aware that his own real desires for human connection and a place to call home are potentially slipping away.
With hints of Shame and perhaps even more hints of Mysterious Skin, Aleksandr's Price is an emotionally compelling film that should find a comfortable home with its distributor QC Cinema, the LGBT arm of indie Breaking Glass Pictures. QC Cinema has mastered figuring out how to market just such a film that clearly has a niche' market yet has universal themes that will also appeal to a wider market.
Aleksandr's Price is destined to appeal almost exclusively to the LGBT market, yet in many ways that's a shame. The film is jarring in its emotional honesty with a grittiness that is likely to limit its appeal - yet that is precisely a point and it's a point that deserves a wider audience willing to courageously go where your average moviegoer won't dare travel. Maso's performance won't necessarily win any acting awards, yet its natural quality actually makes this man's dilemma even more involving. Shame, at times felt shocking for the sake of shocking while Mysterious Skin tossed in some otherworldly elements that occasionally muted its traumatic storylines. With Aleksandr's Price, the focus is almost unflinchingly solely on Aleksandr.
Josh Berresford is quite the find here and serves up a performance that gives his encounter with Maso's Aleksandr an emotional heft, while Samantha Glovin does a nice job as Emma and Anatoli Grek plays Dr. Mary with an appropriate objectivity. Production credits are solid if not particularly remarkable with Maso's directorial effort mostly convincing and his script only occasionally feeling a tad heavy-handed.
A flawed yet involving film, Aleksandr's Price certainly has a place among those films that have dealt honestly with society, relationships, sexuality, and the human desire for a place called home. The film is currently available on VOD and hits the streets on DVD on September 24th.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic