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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 7.Nov.20

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5
dir Piotr Adamski
scr Piotr Adamski, Michal Grochowiak
prd Jacek Bromski, Jerzy Kapuscinski, Ewa Jastrzebska
with Maja Pankiewicz, Paulina Krzyzanska, Marcin Czarnik, Anna Klos, Edyta Torhan, Bartlomiej Krat, Tomasz Sobczak, Bruno Tomczyk, Magdalena Kuta, Tadeusz Bradecki, Mariusz Bakowski, Adrian Brzakala
release Pol 26.Jun.20,
UK Nov.20 rff
19/Poland 1h18

raindance film fest

Is it streaming?

czarnik, pankiewicz and kuta
Deliberately provocative, this Polish thriller is set in a violent, inhumane corner of society that is governed by a set of bleak rules. It's impeccably shot and edited, with a powerful sense of dread from the beginning. Even if the minimalistic storytelling and enormous ensemble cast make it tricky to keep track of who's whom, the narrative grabs hold as it unfolds, taking some surprising turns along the way.

In a wealthy gated suburb, the Kowalski and Nowak families have engaged in an organised blood feud for years, only mixing peacefully when they attend each others' funerals. When her brother is shot, Ewa Nowak (Pankiewicz) is ordered by her shattered father (Czarnik) to hunt down his killer, Klara Kowalska (Krzyzanska). Both girls are teens, but understand what's expected. So Klara's mother (Torhan) makes a plan to keep her safe. And Ewa's mother (Klos) tries to break the cycle, but is shut down by her stern mother-in-law (Kuta). But maybe there's another option.
Murders are presented in a chillingly cold-blooded way, with emotion only reserved for members of your clan. Grandma gravely remarks that killing is simply what they have to do, repaying violence with violence. And both patriarchs simply accept this process, enforcing the carefully delineated process even though it's clearly pointless, with no end in sight. Filmmaker Adamski finds vicious irony in this set-up, such as a neighbouring wildlife park or drunken bros celebrating a birth by firing guns into the night sky.

Performances are so low-key that they're almost deadpan, which thankfully reminds us that this is a seriously bleak satire. With her rifle strapped on her back, Krzyzanska's sassy Klara tries to just be a kid, riding her scooter around the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Pankiewicz gives Ewa a steely determination as she plays her part in this unending game. And she never acknowledges that fulfilling her mission will put her in the crosshairs next.

Members of both families are alarmingly offhanded as they accept and perpetuate this situation. Some make it known that they want a resolution, but others shrug them off. And the financial payout to stop the killing is prohibitive. And while other factors at work here could set these families on a positive course for the future, ignoring the outside world is more dangerous than they know. Yes, this is an obvious parable about Poland's political mess. But it's also a slickly made thriller that's both witty and vicious. And the ending is heart-stopping.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Nov.20 rff

Not to Be Unpleasant but We Need to Have a Serious Talk  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
Not to Be Unpleasant...
dir Giorgos Georgopoulos
scr Giorgos Georgopoulos, Maria Fakinou
prd Giorgos Georgopoulos, Christos V Konstantakopoulos, Antonis Kotzias, Sotiris Tsafoulias
with Omiros Poulakis, Vangelis Mourikis, Kora Karvouni, Ioanna Pappa, Vicky Papadopoulou, Ioanna Kolliopoulou, Sissy Toumasi, Mari Yamamoto, Prometheus Aleifer, Christina Mantesi, Vangelis Alexandris, George Fourtounis
release US Oct.19 aff,
Gr Nov.19 tiff, UK Nov.20 rff
19/Greece 1h39

raindance film fest

Is it streaming?

poulakis and yamamoto
Laced with viciously black comedy, this Greek film is an inventive jolt to the system, telling a personal story with a touch of fantasy and a continual stream of offbeat imagery and jarring gags. It's a remarkably dark narrative, and the brittle humour adds to the complex emotional undercurrents. Filmmaker Giorgos Georgopoulos maintains this balance skilfully, pulling the audience into an unusual odyssey that repeatedly subverts expectations.
In the middle of a workday, businessman Aris (Poulakis) is summoned to the hospital and told he has a new sexually transmitted disease that is often fatal for women. But the unusual strain he carries can be used to create a vaccine if he can find the woman who gave it to him. The hitch is that he's a rampant womaniser, so revisiting ex-girlfriends is a major undertaking. As he struggles to tell them the truth that might save lives, it's no surprise that they don't react well. But he perseveres with his grim task.
Even though the story is serious, scenes are peppered with witty details, including how Aris is unable to define what his company does, or the boss (Mourikis) reciting sexy poetry through his monotone voicebox. There are also dramatic shocks along the way, such as when Aris speaks to the only girl (Toumasi) he clearly cares for, who happens to be the boss' teen daughter. So even if the final act wobbles, each encounter Aris has is sharply well written and played.

Poulakis is superb as a terrified young man going about this task with a perpetually worried expression, often on the verge of tears. Each conversation is excruciating to watch, as he screws up courage to speak, then squirms as he conveys the news. Each actress reacts with complexity, evoking stunned silence (Mantesi), anger (Kolliopoulou), sadness (Yamamoto) and weary regret (Pappa). And that's before Aris says anything. After that things can turn violent (Karvouni).

There are a number of provocative themes gurgling throughout this film, and it's refreshing that Georgopoulos never becomes preachy about Aris' promiscuity. That isn't the issue here: it's his inability to deeply connect with another person. And now he's being forced to have these intense conversations with women he ghosted. As all of this starts closing in on him, the film becomes remarkably moving. It's a challenging reminder that how we treat other people will one day come back at us.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 6.Nov.20 rff

2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten  
Review by Rich Cline | 3/5  
2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten
dir Petersen Vargas
scr Jason Paul Laxamana; prd Alemberg Ang
with Khalil Ramos, Ethan Salvador, Jameson Blake, Ana Capri, Peewee O'Hara, Meann Espinosa, Joel Saracho, Ruby Ruiz, Badjun Lacap, Cecile Yumul, Jomari Angeles, Jerom Canlas
release Ph 15.Mar.17,
UK 4.Nov.20
17/Philippines 1h35

Is it streaming?

Salvador, Ramos and Blake
Set in the late-1990s, this nostalgic Filipino drama centres on a teen who feels out of place in a rural hometown. It's warmly observed, if perhaps old-fashioned, dealing with the usual issues of hidden desires, parental failings and unreal expectations. The story sputters along the way, with a few plot points that don't work. But filmmaker Petersen Vargas skilfully depicts life in this rarely seen corner of the world.
A top student, 17-year-old Felix (Ramos) doesn't have many friends. But then he has never found anyone at his low-achieving school worth befriending. Then Magnus (Salvador) transfers into his class from America, along with younger brother Max (Blake), moving to the Philippines to live with their lively mother (Capri). When Magnus asks Felix for help with geometry, they begin to become friends. And Max also coerces Felix to do his homework. The brothers loosen Felix up, but not enough for him to admit that he has a crush on them.
The film is narrated by Felix's entries in his English journals, emphasising how seriously he takes his schooling. He resists the brothers' encouragement to party with cigarettes, alcohol and dancing, but they wear him down. And as he becomes entangled in their life, it's clear that these friendships mean more to him than he thought they would. While fending off Max's sexy bad boy aggression, Feliz also urges the cynical Magnus into not giving up on life. And their complex interaction is much more riveting than the rather melodramatic plot points.

The actors have terrific presence, even if their performances sometimes feel a bit tentative. The expressive Ramos has a likeable honesty as the awkward Felix, who's too smart to be distracted from his goal to escape this town and go to university in Manila. Salvador and Blake have their own magnetism, the nice Magnus and the devious Max. So it's easy to see why Felix is attracted to both, and why he takes very different approaches to each of them.

Even with its obviously small budget, film is skilfully shot and edited, with ambitious artful touches, including odd fantasy cutaways that don't quite gel. Some more expansive sequences give a great sense of the setting outside claustrophobic homes and classrooms. Especially a scene when Felix tells Magnus about the Pinatubo eruption that obliterated his childhood home. And there's some very dark drama as well. So if the plot drags between the key moments, there are still several strongly expressive scenes along the way.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 5.Nov.20

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