Poppy Field is a film that reimagines the perspective of a Romanian police officer who is still in the closet. Cristi (Conrad Mericoffer) gets a visit from both his Arab-French boyfriend and his sister. He tries to take his mind off them when he starts work with his cop buddies. They discuss what their vacation plans are, which echoes his sister’s suggestions to him. The cops make jokes about each other about who’s trying to go to the gym more. And that masculine air reflects the tense and maybe historical day that they’re going to have to deal with.
Turns out that Cristi and his cop buddies have to break up an impromptu protest that took place during a retrospective screening of an American movie about lesbians. There he encounters a man who threatens to out him, and he responds to that threat with good old police brutality. The film then separates him from the crowds, anticipating anxiously how his coworkers deal with a bad apple. That’s good and everything, and the camera’s attention towards Cristi shows that anxiety. But it feels like the film, by choosing to isolate Cristi, focused on the wrong part of the movie theatre.
Poppy Field also really doesn’t give enough nuance to the other police characters who either do or don’t have a dog in the anti-gay or gay fight. One of them, Mircea (Alexandru Potocean), has a monologue about a dog that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. Stroia (George Pistereanu) is one of the overzealous cops who wants to weed bad apples and sees Cristi as one. But he yells his way through his lines so much hat he seems unsympathetic. And sure, sympathy might not the film’s goal, but its attempts at moral complexity and ambiguity fall short.