If you were wondering whether the lives of crack-addicted rent boys were a barrel of laughs, then Men For Sale is here to say that they aren’t. Well, that doesn’t exactly come as a big surprise, but does this documentary have anything new to say about the subject?
Not really, but it’s interesting nonetheless. The documentary consists of a series of interviews conducted over the space of a year with young men involved with a project for sex workers in Montreal. At first it seems that a slightly prurient interest in their lives as rent boys will predominate, but thankfully the interviews tend to move from what they do on-the-job to the effect crack addiction has on their lives.
By the end being a rent boy is almost depicted as a symptom of a larger problem, which is drugs. As the men become more trusting of the interviewers, the whole thing becomes more intimate, and what initially seem like hard, largely unpleasant young men begin to reveal another side of themselves. The overwhelming feeling is one of people whose lives are pure confusion. They hate their clients and think they’re scum – especially those who say they love them – but seem to crave intimacy even if it’s with the ‘sugar daddies’ they proclaim to dislike. Most of the confusion surrounds their relationship to drugs – something they both love and hate, and which causes them to both love and hate almost everything else in their lives.
Men For Sale never really gets to the bottom of things – most notably unpicking the cycle of drugs and the chaotic lives that the film’s subject seems to be trapped in – but it’s not really the documentary’s fault, as it is basically just the words of young men who are barely keeping their heads above water and whose moods, desires and emotions, are all over the place. It may not find the solution, but it is an illuminating look at the problem.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac