Film Review: ‘Calvet’


Dominic Allan’s Calvet (2011) screened to much critical acclaim at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, slowly becoming one of the festival’s surprise hits and leaving audiences completely shell-shocked by its intense and beautifully depicted story.

After a terrifying journey to hell and back, Jean Marc Calvet must now face his biggest demon. After rising from the ashes of a life shrouded in paranoia, this now famous artist must embark on a harrowing voyage back through his troubled past in order to find the son he abandoned almost eighteen years ago in this thoroughly touching documentary.

A one-time drug addict and rent boy, the young Calvet slowly built himself a life and a family out of nothing before rejecting it all the moment the prospect of a existence of unimaginable prosperity came calling. A childhood riddled with abuse amongst a backdrop of poverty had provoked anger within the young man, driving him to a lifestyle of violence which led to careers in the army and eventually as a bodyguard for the rich American businessman who made him the job offer he couldn’t refuse.

Leaving his homeland and moving to America he soon realised that this new lifestyle was a million miles away from the stereotypical American dream. Deeply involved within a world of unsolicited and highly illegal business deals he soon became disenfranchised with the broken promises that appeared to have shackled him into this life of drug trafficking and underground crime. He ultimately made a phenomenally brave decision which whilst freeing him from one oppressive lifestyle ultimately led to another filled with destructive excesses that would eventually incarcerate him within a world of mental instability and drug fuelled paranoia.

Using art to free himself of his internal demons, Calvet is now very much a reformed man. His expressive paintings with their uniquely personal style have attracted interest from art critics worldwide, affording him a comfortable lifestyle whilst also giving him an outlet for the anger which once consumed him. The only thing missing is to make amends with the son he left all those years ago.

Allan’s Calvet is almost as painterly presented as the artist in question’s masterpieces. These rigorously framed flights into Calvet’s troubled past are as visually alluring as the most accomplished of fictional movies, creating an absorbingly intense portrait of a man who has lived through more in his turbulent life than seems humanly possible.

Never coming across as even moderately voyeuristic this incredibly personal expose of a truly fascinating man resonates with a message about the importance of family that a thousand fabricated tragedies could never come close to replicating. This life-affirming adventure into the abyss and back of one truly fascinating character has a social message that ought to be heard by all. Calvet’s wish of love and the power of family being more than just a dream is a belief we should all be able to relate to.

Calvet will receive a limited run in cinemas from today (24 November). For details of screenings please visit the official website or Facebook page.

Patrick Gamble