Junkyard Dog: Raphaël Quenard, A Star is Born

“Junkyard Dog” is a the feature film debut of auteur Jean-Baptiste Durand that transports viewers to a small village in the South of France. That is where we submerge in the lives of a group of “junkyard dogs” – working-class outsiders caught up in the local drug trade. Despite their illicit activities, these characters value honesty and integrity in their relationships. This dichotomy is just one of the many layers that make this coming-of-age dramedy a compelling watch.

The long, steady, opening sequence with the flickering lights of the village at night is hauntingly beautiful. It also prepares viewers for what is to come: a floating, gentle yet powerful cinematic experience.

Generally speaking, the film boasts a stunning visual aesthetic, with confident handheld camerawork and a neo-western color palette. The classical score sometimes juxtaposes and sometimes complements the wild inner journey of its protagonists. Damian (Anthony Bajon) and Mirales (Raphaël Quenard) are two best friends and drug dealers who grapple with their sense of belonging and purpose(lessness) in their small-town environment.

Junkyard Dog

Source: IMDB

Mirales, who frequently quotes Michel de Montaigne and lectures on mindfulness, is a complex, intellectual and rebellious character who serves as both the gang’s leader and its philosopher. His relationship with Damian aka „Dog” is the film’s cornerstones and emotional hook.

Everything changes when on a summer day, Elsa (Galatéa Bellugi), a new love interest, comes into the picture. Her presence changes the dynamic between the boys and skyrockets tension – particularly when intellectual differences between the small-town gang and a big-city girl come to the forefront. A memorable scene set in the village’s finest restaurant involves a discussion of Hermann Hesse’s “Steppenwolf”. Both the setting and conversation are beautifully symbolic, witty and surprising. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?

The performances in “Junkyard Dog” are superb, particularly Raphaël Quenard, who shines as the complex and charismatic Mirales. Quenard, who had his massive breakthrough year in 2023, brings a naturalism and charm to his character even in its most arrogant and annoying moments. It is a real treat to watch how scenes get filtered through his lace-like sensitivity, his eyes tell a million words. The ars poetica Mirales has about his quest for love says much about his temperamental and romantic character: „I want a woman I’ll be buried with. Intertwined in the same coffin. I want that or nothing.”

The chemistry between Quenard and Bajon is palpable and adds depth to the film’s exploration of friendship and loyalty. Bajon’s portrayal of Damian, a more reserved, introspective and somewhat depressed character, provides a fitting counterpoint to Quenard’s Mirales. The film’s canine companion, Beefcake, also deserves a shoutout; he adds warmth and a factor of cuteness to the narrative.
In “Junkyard Dog,” Durand skillfully weaves together a story that is both emotional, old school and intelligent, without resorting to heavy-handed storytelling. The result is a tasteful, soft, delicate film that showcases the director’s natural talent and cements his status as a promising new voice in French cinema.

You can catch Junkyard Dog on Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV and more.

~ by Dora Endre ~