Jill’s pick this week and it looks like we’re in foreign cinema territory now. And what a film to start off with!
I’m going to launch straight into my review before I show my hand too soon but let’s just say, I think we’re having a successful streak.
As always: *Spoilers*!
IMDB Synopsis: There isn’t an ‘official’ synopsis. However, have this tagline from the film poster: The perfect grump is about to meet his match – a five-year old kid called… Kolya.
Not only is Franta Louka the perfect ‘grump’, he is also a bit of a fucking pig if you’ll mind my French. From the get go, this Sean Connery-looking mofo (and concert cellist) has my back up. Not because he’s a lady ‘killer’, but because he lifts up women’s skirts and catcalls school girls from the safety of his mate’s car (who isn’t much better given he’s in charge of the honking).
My first thought was that this guy has a loooooooong way to go to make up for being such a sexist dinosaur. But we’ll get to that.
Anyway, Louka lives in Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia and is a confirmed bachelor, loving single life without ties. It seems he used to play cello for the Philharmonic Orchestra but now mainly does funerals. He has a more successful brother who has emigrated and a Russian-despising mother who rues the day they came into her country and decided to stay.
Louka also has a motley crew of friends with their fingers in all sorts of pies and one day one of them, Mr Broz tries to convince him to marry a Russian girl for convenience (and a large sum). Despite being strapped for cash, Louka initially declines as he has a bad feeling about it all and also, doesn’t really want anything to mess with his lifestyle. He has, after all, got a string of willing ladies waiting in the wings for impromptu booty calls.
He’s also recently hooked up with beautiful colleague, Klára, who gets hiccups after a particularly good seeing to. But things often have a habit of cropping up to change everything so in the end, Louka agrees. His new wife, Nadezda is very young and pretty, and conveniently, doesn’t speak a word of Czech. Louka doesn’t speak Russian, so things are off to a flying start. She also has a five-year-old son, Kolya.
A few days after the nuptials, Nadezda buggers off to West Germany, where her lover resides. She leaves Kolya behind with her aunt, who Kolya seems to know as his grandma. Grandma has a stroke and makes arrangements for Kolya to stay with his new step-dad, figuring that it’ll look better for Louka, since the cops are now aware of the sham marriage and are due to come calling any minute.
First of all, I have to say here that I love Kolya. He’s the sweetest little boy ever and frankly, I’d adopt him in a heart beat. Louka is less enamoured and finds the language barrier hard to take. He pleads with Mr. Broz to take him in instead but Mr. Broz already has an apartment full of children and puppies, so it’s a no-go area.
Louka has no choice but to march Kolya to the hospital to get the skinny on what’s going on with Grandma/Aunty. Alas, the poor woman is in no fit state to take over parental duties (dead, innit) and Louka finds no joy there. He writes a letter to Social Services and waits for someone to come.
In the meantime, as is always the way, Louka starts to come round. Kolya starts to pick up the Czech language and is the best behaved child I’ve ever seen on film, even if he is a bit of a cock-block (Louka takes in a sexy cello student and promptly tries to bang her, while Kolya is in the other room).
Being a massive man-whore actually works in Louka’s favour though as he’s able to call in favours with his women, who read stories to Kolya over the phone and nurse him when he’s unwell.
You can see where this is going, I’m sure and I don’t want to spoil absolutely every aspect of the film for you, but what goes up must come down and sadly, characters we’re rooting for can’t always get their own way just because we want them to. Yes, I ended up liking Louka. You knew I would, didn’t you?
The two end up going on an adventure when Social Services come a-calling and tell Louka that the Russian government will want Kolya back. He also has to contend with the fuzz, who are twisting his melon over the matrimonial lie. By now our main men are inseparable, except by accident, and it’s adorable.
To the questions section! Will this story have a happy ending? What kind of horrible mother dumps her own son to go on the pull? Will Louka keep it in his pants ever and find real love? And while we’re at it, how come these women all find him so irresistible? Does he have a dick made of solid gold? (Sorry, Mum).
More importantly, where can I get an apartment as stunning as Louka’s? Sure, I could do without the over-familiar landlady but the views and the bohemian aesthetic are TDF!
This film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1996 and it’s not hard to see why. It’s excellent. Truly. I had all the feels throughout and maybe my emotions were especially weakened as I’d just got back from seeing Amy (2015) but I loved it.
I’m glad the main protagonist had to work to gain my respect. I’m glad all the characters, from the Good Cop/Bad Cop police officers on Louka’s case to his bad-tempered mother to Mr. Boz and Klára were well-formed and brilliant.
The actors are exceptional, particularly the little boy who plays Kolya. I’m just really glad we’re doing foreign cinema as I rate it so highly. Much as I do love Hollywood, European cinema often has more heart and soul.
I’m looking forward to exploring more of it with Jill.
4.5/5 – Very very good.