Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Film Review: Love Life Of A Gentle Coward

"Love Life Of A Gentle Coward" ** 1\2 (out of ****)

Walking into "Love Life Of A Gentle Coward" (2010) the only Croatian film playing at the Chicago International Film Festival, I was a bit skeptical. The film had a "been there, done that" plot to me.

At its core "Love Life" is suppose to be the story of a timid man, abused by his family, boss and society, who finally reaches his tipping point and fights back. We can compare it to Franz Kafka or even the Coen Brothers "A Serious Man" (2009). We know this story and we know the formula. We have a good grasp on how things will all work out.

According to filmmaker Pavo Marinkovic, the film was his attempt to demonstrate the dying intellectual voice in Croatia. That sounds very interesting but "Love Life Of A Gentle Coward" never really seem to get that point across. It is the downfall of the film.

For a movie which is suppose to be about a man who is always the victim it never struck me that Sasa's (Nenad Cvetko) life was all that bad. He is a food critic who is divorced from his wife, with whom he had a child, Luka (Nikola Crcek). Luke, like most children doesn't listen to his father, but, I wouldn't say doesn't love him. His wife seems to flaunt her new boyfriend in Sasa's face, but, when he gets the opportunity Sasa is tempted to do the same. And his editor tells him his writing isn't clear and direct. Overall, Sasa's life doesn't seem that terrible to me. Perhaps he is timid but there is no reason for a one man revolution.

One day Sasa decides to join a health club, here he meets a masseuse, Ines (Dijana Vidusin). Her massages now become a substitute for sex. Since he and his wife have divorced Sasa has not had much of a sex life and openly declares he is a poor lover. Amazingly the women don't flock to him. Go figure! An attraction ensues and it is through Ines that Sasa will soon start to "act like a man".

But this leads to another problem with the film, which I really can't go into without revealing too much. The relationship between Ines and Sasa I felt simply fizzed out. It suggest one thing and turns into something else. I found it very disappointing. And quite frankly couldn't understand Sasa's actions in the third act.

"Love Life Of A Gentle Coward" is not a bad film. It has some nice moments of humor and Nenad Cvetko gives a good performance as a kind of "every man". There are moments where we can relate to the character and laugh along with him. However I am sure this film will not find distribution in the U.S. and because of that I'm glad I saw the movie despite not enjoying it more. It would be my only opportunity to ever see this movie. That experience is worth something. I'd say two and a half stars.
I will say however, I would not be surprised if the film's message resonated with Croatians. At the Croatian film festival in Pula the film won three awards; "Best Actress", "Art Direction" and "Editing".