NZIFF 2020 – Paradise Drifters REVIEW

NZIFF 2020 – Paradise Drifters REVIEW


NZIFF 2020 – Paradise Drifters REVIEW

Director – Mees Peijnenburg

Starring – Tamar van Waning, Jonas Smulders, Bilal Wahib, Joren Seldeslachts


Disaffected and unwanted young people wander around like ghosts in Marseilles-based film Paradise Drifters. GARY STEEL wasn’t impressed.


Paradise Drifters

First-time director Mees Peijnenburg focuses his camera on three disturbed French youths in Paradise Drifters, successfully projecting the drifting disconnection of its protagonists. Sadly, however, this aimless film doesn’t do much more than that.

In the first section Lorenzo (Jonas Smulders) is risking life and limb to help his brother Ivan (Joren Seldeslachts) who is due to be released from prison, Chloe (Tamar van Waning) is pregnant with a baby she plans to sell and Yousef (Bilal Wahib) is a lost soul released from some kind of care facility to no fixed abode.

Paradise Drifters

Yousef shows Chloe a safe place to sleep when she runs away from the middlemen in her looming baby surrogacy tragedy, and Jonas is the hapless driver of their “ride”. But instead of forming a relationship, the three are brought together only by need and early in the film, Yousef commits suicide.

From then on, the action (such as it is) revolves around Lorenzo’s dependent relationship on his fucked-up brother, whose dishonesty comes to a head, prompting Lorenzo and Chloe to head out into the wilderness as a twosome.

Paradise Drifters has such rich potential for a genuinely edgy film that has something to say about society’s young rejects. Unfortunately, Peijnenburg wastes the opportunity with desultory performances and – more importantly – a film that’s so light on dialogue that the actors might as well be mute.

Paradise Drifters

In the course of the film we learn so little about the characters and they communicate so sparingly that there’s very little to hold onto, or engage with. It tells a story of sorts but does it with such a detached air that the only character you want to know is the poor bastard who kills himself early on in the film.

To make matters worse there’s something profoundly irritating about van Waning’s performance. The camera focuses lovingly on her, but she’s hardly charismatic, and while we feel sorry for her predicament it’s hard to warm to a character that never reveals itself.

Instead of achieving usefully uncomfortable cinema, Paradise Drifters ends up just feeling weak, transient and pretentious.

* Paradise Drifters is available to stream online from July 31 to August 6.

Check out Witchdoctor’s New Zealand International Film Festival reviews:

Corpus Christi

Last And First Men


The Long Walk

Paradise Drifters

Leap Of Faith: William Friedkin On The Exorcist

Coded Bias

The Kingmaker

Jesus Shows You The Way To The Highway

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets


Kubrick By Kubrick

Sick, Sick, Sick

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