The fact that this film ever got made is a real achievement in itself is something of miracle/breakthrough. To our knowledge, this is only the 2nd queer movie to come out of Romania. The first was Beyond The Hills, which when we reviewed it in 2013, we found overwhelmingly bleak.
Poppy Field, the debut feature from Romanian filmmaker Eugen Jebeleanu is hardly a walk in the park as it accurately seeks to portray the depressing reality of being gay in 2021 in this former Soviet country.
It’s the story of Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer) a closeted policeman who is in a long-term, long-distance relationship with Hadi (Radouan Leflahi). When Hadi comes to Bucharest for a weekend visit, Cristi is reluctant to agree to do any activity which involves going out in public with his boyfriend.
When Cristi goes to work that night, his platoon is sent to a movie theater to sort out a disturbance. There is a group of homophobes protesting the screening of a queer film. (This is actually based on a real live- event). Whilst he is there one of the queer audience members recognizes Cristi as someone who he had hooked up for sex before. When the man confronts the embarrassed policeman the air is rife with tension as Cristi will do absolutely anything to stop being ‘outed’.
The movie, full of promise, but in the end, it trips over itself too often as ends up disappointing. It starts with Cristi who makes an unbelievable participant in a long-term relationship, as he treats the overly keen Hadi purely as a sex partner.
The second part when Crist is in the movie theater really drags on far too long as director Jebeleanu is indecisive about whether if he should concentrate on the physicality of Cristi’s problem, or focus on a treatise on Romania’s unshakeable entrenched homophobia.
This film probably gets better reactions from audiences who still live in restricted authoritarian countries, but sadly to us it simply failed to live up to its high promise.