Doroteya Droumeva’s feature debut follows a woman searching for relationships with younger men in Berlin

The Vagabonds

Source: Festival de Cannes

‘The Vagabonds’

Dir: Doroteya Droumeva. Germany. 2021. 89 mins

A thirty-eight-year-old woman (Shirly Lev) with a taste for men in their early twenties prowls the dating apps and streets of contemporary Berlin in search of company, sexual and otherwise. This unintentionally funny, tone-deaf English language erotic drama attempts to challenge societal prejudices and norms when it comes to relationships between older women and younger men. But by entirely defining the central character, Nora, by her sexual tastes and by making practically every line of dialogue about age and age gap relationships, it seems that it is the film, rather than society as a whole, which is obsessed with the subject.

Attempts to challenge societal prejudices and norms when it comes to relationships between older women and younger men

It’s fair to say that The Vagabonds feels somewhat out of place in the Cannes Film Festival program. It screens in the Special Screenings strand as the result of arrangement made when director and co-writer Doroteya Droumeva (on whose relationship proclivities the film is based) won the Cinefondation Award with her short film The Letter in 2011. This meant that her first feature would have a position in the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a well-meaning initiative but one which, in this case, means that a film which seems to be unfinished (the sound mix is missing in action) and is certainly unpolished finds itself placed under the acute and unforgiving scrutiny that a Cannes selection warrants. The commercial potential of the picture would seem to be limited, unless the filmmakers decided to play up some of the more ludicrous elements and aimed for cult viewing status, like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room.

It’s in no way as inept as that title, but it does include a small, hairy stranger bouncing across a park to deliver the line, “I came all the way from Egypt to attend the swingers party of a friend”; a teenager who invites Nora and her friend to look at his nipples (“I am also very experienced with older ladies”, he says, bless his heart) and an orgy so soul-crushingly bleak it makes the one in Ulrich Seidl’s Dog Days look like a playground of tantalising sexual possibilities.

Production company: Doroteya Droumeva

Contact: Doroteya Droumeva,

Producer: Chelsea Brünger

Screenplay: Doroteya Droumeva, Martin Razhdashki

Cinematography: Adrian Angehrn

Editing: Evanthia Afstralou, Doroteya Droumeva

Music: Falk Luka Wünsch, Hendrik Omun

Main cast: Shirly Lev, Christian Wewerka, Sophie de Frenne, David Krzysteczko, Nikolai Tegeler, Nils Nadolny, Markus Bernhard Börger, Magnus Mariuson, Lisa-Katrina Mayer, Kris Kwiat, Jonathan Elias Weiske, Viktor Nilsson, Lavinia Heilig, Maximilian Braun, Martin Razhdashki, Egor Reider, Yasin Abdel Hamid, Peter Volksdorf, Onur Akkilic