Lithuanian romantic drama, The Lawyer (Advokatas), from writer-director Romas Zabarauskas raises a number of intriguing questions as it explores the case of high flying corporate lawyer and his unlikely relationship with a bisexual sex cam worker who also happens to be a Syrian refugee. Delving into the case of LGBT refugees, whilst capturing the dichotomy of the experience faced by the queer community in a first world country, The Lawyer is a quietly engaging, heartfelt piece.
Successful corporate lawyer Marius (Eimutis Kvoščiauskas) lives a quiet life in Vilnius, dating younger men and enjoying casual hook-ups. He soon gets invested in a Belgrade based Ali (Doğaç Yildiz) who he meets on a sex cam network. Marius makes the journey from Lithuania to Serbia in the hope of meeting Ali in person, where he learns that Ali is a Syrian refugee and soon becomes invested in a struggle to gain him asylum in a more LGBT friendly country.
Shot with a gentle realism and naturalistic style, The Lawyer captures the humanity at the heart of a refugee story with conviction something furthered by Ieva Marija Baranauskaite’s delicate piano score. Director Zabarauskas casts a gentle gaze over the proceedings, letting the story calmly unfold and carry its message of acceptance across seamlessly, without ever verging on preaching.
Beginning with a dinner party showing Marius and his gay friends discussing his past failures to find a monogamous relationship, the ground is set for the character transition that unfolds and makes The Lawyer quietly gripping. His straight laced ideals and opinions are challenged when meeting a human face at the heart of the Syrian refugee crisis – and particularly one that speaks to him through the LGBT connections. Whilst the initial connection between Marius and Ali (through the sex cam chat room) is based on sexual desire, Zabarauskas’s narrative builds on this, crafting a relationship of conviction.
When both men meet in Belgrade, the film’s tone touches on sweetly romantic – establishing the bond between the men which strengthens as the narrative progresses. Marius’s eyes are opened to the struggles of LGBT refugees (even with the camps in new host countries – from their fellow countrymen) and the challenges faced by those attempted when trying to legally relocate them to more LGBT friendly countries. The tone shifts from the quiet contemplative one thanks to some narrative friction where Marius soon enters the battle to rehome Ali legally.
There’s further narrative engagement in the number of questions raised by The Lawyer. Is the relationship between Ali and Marius real or is it driven by Marius’s sexual attraction to Ali, or driven by Ali using the skills of a wealthy lawyer to get himself rehomed? Zabarauskas explores these questions and subsequently keeps us invested in the journey between these two men.
Raising interesting points about the perils of LGBT refugees in an engaging narrative fashion ensures that The Lawyer is an incredibly worthwhile experience. Zabarauskas’s gentle direction and performances with complete conviction from Eimutis Kvoščiauskas and Doğaç Yildiz ensure that The Lawyer fully invests us from start to finish.