Though Alain Guiraudie’s Staying Vertical isn’t a wall-to-wall boner-fest like his previous film, Stranger by the Lake, it’s still very much an examination of how its male characters interact with their world and their own masculinity.
Léo (Damien Bonnard) is a screenwriter wandering through the idyllic South of France hoping to see a wolf, all while procrastinating over his latest script. He has a child with shepherdess Marie (India Hair) and moves in with her, her two young sons, and her father Jean-Louis (Raphaël Thiéry, playing a Gallic John C. Reilly if there ever was one). Marie soon takes her sons and abandons Léo with the infant, leaving him rudderless and yet giving him more time to stalk young twink Yoan (Basile Meilleurat), who crashes with spectacularly racist old codger Marcel (Christian Bouillette).
Whereas the explicit sex in Stranger by the Lake was all gay, Staying Vertical’s more sporadic sex is mostly straight until it isn’t, in one of the ookier scenes in recent memory. Vertical also lack’s Stranger’s urgency and economy, but makes up for it by making its countryside feel almost as ominous as that film’s lake: Even the rolling thunder of the herd’s bells during the many panning shots evokes dread. The wolf is always closer than Léo realizes.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.