Border worlds are by nature ambiguous spaces. While they illustrate firm divisions (one side is France while the other is Germany, for example), they are also places in which laws change and the rules are more permeable. In Europe, those borders—between the European Union and non-EU countries, between those in and outside of the Eurozone, and even at the borders of countries within the EU—have also become places of suspicion and violence. The beautifully shot and sensually intimate film Roxy (2016) sheds light on this world at the margins, a place for foreigners, for the poor, and for outsiders.
In a dilapidated trailer on the German/Luxembourg border, a client violently attacks an aging prostitute. A young man, who has parked his car near the trailer, hears the scuffle and comes to the woman’s aid. As the two talk in the trailer, they discover that they actually are already intimately connected. She talks to the young man in Luxembourgish, not German, in a place where small shifts in language speak volumes. Roxy’s heartwarming reveal, as well as its mournful ending, speaks to both the ability to connect with outsiders and also how that connection cannot eradicate the very real conditions in which some people live.
The film’s somber color palette and narrative simplicity lay bare the human crisis at the center of the story. The desolate, empty setting and gray skies produce a bleak milieu, whereas the trailer’s narrow, red interior, with its Christmas lights and taped-up windows, speaks to the owner’s substance level existence. On her refrigerator, there is a picture of a small baby next to a snapshot of Marilyn Monroe blowing out birthday cake candles. The red interior, the lights, and the photos are glimpses of desire, loss, and necessity.
Roxy’s melancholy complexity lies in its reveal of the pair’s true relationship. While usually such reveals succumb to schmaltziness or melodrama, here a short meeting ends the way it begins, with two people parting as strangers. There are real world problems that cannot be resolved through a short connection. However, the film points to those connections that link us. Refugees of war, or capitalism, or domestic violence, are all of our brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces. They are our family, if only we could see them intimately.