Having its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival and soon to show at the BFI Flare Festival, Poppy Field is a Romanian film that deals with the subject matter of homophobia. The film follows a young Romanian gendarme, Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer), who tries to find a balance between the masculine perception of his job and his personal life as a closeted gay man. While his long-distance boyfriend, Hadi (Raduoan Leflahi), is visiting him, Cristi is called in for an intervention at a movie theatre where a homophobic group has interrupted the screening of a queer film.
This film is one that focuses on such an important subject matter, and I appreciate the director Eugen Jebeleanu for tackling. This is a directorial debut from Jebeleanu, and to pick a subject matter like this is bold. The concept of the story itself, having our leading character be interrupted by a display of homophobia gives the film a great narrative to go through and one that is compelling for the audience, knowing that Cristi is gay and having to break away a group of homophobes.
This film doesn’t just handle the difficulties of being in a gay relationship, but also the struggles of being in a long-distance relationship. Whilst Cristi being called last-minute on shift to deal with an intervention commentary on the perception of the gay community in Romania, it also shows the struggles of maintaining a long-distance relationship and making the most of the time that they are together in person. Despite the current rise in technology making long-distance relationships more common, they are still not represented in media as much as they should be.
Jebeleanu has all of these great ideas for a compelling narrative, but sadly the film does fall short in placing all of the pieces together. There are great individual sequences, such as the moment when Cristi first walks into the movie theatre and sees the intervention taking place, but they don’t flow together cohesively. It feels like there are missing pieces of the story, helping us further connect with Cristi and establishing fully his relationship with his co-workers.
There is a lot that occurs in the opening of the film, jumping from exposition to exposition in order to understand the significance of the intervention for Cristi. Unfortunately, the pacing takes a grinding halt once we are at the intervention, as the audience is kept at the location for a long time. This would be fine if there was more development or action within, but there is little to keep your attention held. The film would have benefitted from not rushing straight to this scene and giving the audience more time to warm to Cristi and Hadi as a couple.
There was potential to make a large statement with this story, but the film seems to end before the story is officially over. Instead of having the arc focus on Cristi and Hadi’s relationship, the story seems to end with the intervention. There is a lack of balance as any tension that the film had is lost without any satisfying conclusion. Some might appreciate how this film handles the intimacy of the relationship and how the answers weren’t going to come within a single event, but I just wish the film had more to offer.
For a directorial debut from Jebeleanu, there are some great qualities within this film that shows potential to be a phenomenal director. He is already taking on some bold stories and has an eye for strong potential narratives and conflicts. This unfortunately just ran out of steam in the second half and couldn’t seem to keep a consistent beat going, making the overall message have less impact than what was expected.