The best traditions of continental romances are upheld by this winding drama: the women are beautiful, the men look like beaten-up pillow cases, the weather is relentlessly unpleasant and everyone is bored and vaguely miserable before they’re all thoroughly miserable. Oh, and there’s some inexplicable, gratuitous but not unwelcome nudity, while, this being a Czech film, you are also treated to a few jokes about Slovakian sausages, Bulgarian eyebrows and bowlegged Oriental women, the last of which you will tut over in the pub during post match drinks in order to prove your PC credentials. It’s also casually misogynistic. Casual? Virtually narcoleptic, but don’t let all this bother you! This really is a very tender hearted film, with none of the sloppy sentimentalism that mars equivalent Anglo-American fare. There’s something slightly horrible about continental love flicks. It could be that they’re closer to the truth.
Adapted from Emil Hakl’s, award-winning novel, fans of Graham Swift’s writing (and their filmed versions, Last Orders, Waterland, The Light of Day) will sense echoes in the storytelling and atmosphere, the slow drip of revelation and repressed emotions. There isn’t much in the way of a plot, a father and his adult son have a long walk (in a neat touch they pass over the Vltava on several occasions) while the son’s girlfriend awaits his return, when she is disturbed by an unanticipated visitor. In fact you can pretty much guess the plot from that. Of the four Josef Somr as the elderly father gives the most impressive performance—he stumbles, his eyes turn smoky, he is very sweet—all of which is fairly remarkably given his physical similarity to Ken Davitian, who played the part of Azamat Bagatoff, Borat’s travelling companion in the Borat movie. And there’s little more to say about it. This film won’t change your life, in fact you’re most likely to suffer a mild depression, the kind you get when you step in a puddle and the water comes through the canvas. But it’s an honest film and ultimately that’ll do.