Sauvage: "We are not animals after all..." | Review

Translated from French to English "Sauvage" means wild and this film is most certainly that. It is a dark exploration of the often dangerous world of sex work. Camille Vidal-Naquet brings us his debut feature following the character of Léo played by Félix Maritaud. He is a lonely, quiet guy who keeps to himself except when navigating the business of survival. Léo is intelligent and street smart with a never-ending pain lurking in his eyes. You can see how affected he is by the world around him and the people who go in and out of it.

There's a real exploration of community in Sauvage. The multiple sex workers on the streets look out for one another and they take their business seriously, "blowjobs are €20" they say after discovering a new man on the street doing them for €5, sometimes for free. It is not a joke to them, it is a means of survival, especially for Ahd, Léo's closest thing to a friend. One of the more tender moments shows the two of them in bed together, Ahd momentarily provides Léo with his need, he holds him closely and lets him sleep on his chest. "We are not animals after all" he says. This one sentence embodies the entire weight of the narrative. Sex work is not animalistic, it is survival.

Vidal-Naquet builds a bleak, gritty world for his actors to play in from the colouring and texture of each scene to showing each brutal aspect of Léo's life. The abuse, the blowjobs on the side of the road, the endless insults... it all paints a picture of Léo's tortured life so that when he holds the doctor during a physical we are so connected to his need of love and nurture it pains us that we can do nothing for him but we root for someone who can.

 Sauvage leaves me with an ache. Watching him navigate every brutality, watching his clients brutally pick apart his body in casual conversation right in front of him and only being able to watch leaves me frustrated. We are the apathetic clients who use him for our entertainment for 90 minutes and move on to the next thing. Camille Vidal-Naquet painted an painstakingly beautiful portrait of a damaged person whose need for love does not waiver in even the most trying of times. A brutal watch but worth it if you can get through it.

Sauvage opens in select cinemas nationwide on 1st March. More info at

Until next time

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