Nothing in this world comes for free; even love and sex come at a heavy personal and financial cost. David Lambert’s film Je Suis à Toi explores this notion of what people pay and receive, barter and exchange, told through the story of three people living in a small Belgian village.
Lucas is a young, free-spirited Argentinean escort. He sells everything: his sexuality, his love. Everything can and must go. It’s this untethered attitude that brings him to a small Belgian town where a baker named Henry has purchased his ticket and, to some extent, his free will. Lucas works for Henry, sleeps with Henry, wears the clothes Henry prefers. As the relationship between the two men grows more intense and strained, Lucas also becomes acquainted with Audrey, the sales assistant at Henry’s bakery, with whom he begins to question both his sexuality and his independence.
Je Suis à Toi is a film about paying dues. No character exists without owing someone else something. In purchasing Lucas a plane ticket to Belgium, Henry takes full ownership of him. Lucas works without pay. He is expected, to some extent, to please Henry sexually. Even so, the relationship is not fulfilling. Lucas does not love him but is Henry owed love? No gift is empty. In attempting to woo Audrey and her young son, Lucas continues to sell his body in order to afford gifts. These characters operate in a material society. They cannot win each other over with deeds and words, so they turn to materials. They buy, cook, and sell. Everything has a material value, even love.
In one particularly notable scene, Henry teaches Lucas how to make a specialty of his bakery: pieces of bread shaped like little men, an act of creation that echos the way each man tries to mold the other. These two incredibly selfish men rarely think beyond themselves, and yet, Je Suis à Toi shows such compassion for both.
Though the characters in this film spend much of their time focusing on what they don’t have, the universe Lambert creates is abundance with riches, particularly music and food. Henry adores opera, often turning the bakery into his private stage. There are several montages of baking, fresh bread and desserts are churned out scene after scene. The malleable nature of bread is a pattern repeated throughout. Dough is carried, molded, rolled, and touched by many of the characters. It is heavy, sticky, and complicated, changing constantly, not unlike the wants and desires of the characters in Je Suis à Toi. These people are impulsive and they never stop wanting. In the lens of another director, many would seem grating and unkind, and yet, wants are universal. Exchanges are made daily. Nothing is given in emptiness, and Je Suis à Toi knows it.