Monday, March 24, 2014

Film Review: Our Women

"Our Women"
*** 1\2 (out of ****)

Relationships are pretty difficult to sustain. We seem to live in a culture where everyone is looking for love but no one can find it. People are too busy with their careers. They aren't over an ex. They aren't ready to commit. They need more "me" time, there are so many things they want to do. They don't want to "settle". And yet for others they feel they are getting older. Time is running out.

The Hungarian comedy "Our Women" (Nejem, nom, csajom, 2014) deals with these issues but does so from a female perspective. It is the women that want the relationships. They are the ones looking for love. They are the ones that go to great lengths to maintain happy relationships as they deal with difficult men. Women are the ones that make all the sacrifices.

I reject this notion as a single thirty-something male living in a big city. My own experiences have shaped the opinion it is the women that aren't ready to commit. The only reason I am single is because I meet women who aren't ready to commit. They don't know who they are or what they want out of life yet. They want to focus on their career. They aren't over an ex. Though, I suppose that doesn't sell movie tickets. It doesn't feed into the stereotype the media has been feeding us for years. Men are suppose to be the ones that are afraid to commit and women are the delicate ones looking for love.

In "Our Women", which played at the 17th annual European Union Film Festival in Chicago, we follow four women in interconnecting story-lines, as each tries to maintain a relationship and keep domestic bliss. There is Helga (Judit Schell) a newsreporter who has been dating Jozsef (Peter Rudolf) for two months. They have not slept together yet and it is driving Helga crazy. What is he hiding? Is he married? But Helga is of a certain age and wants to have a child. Whatever Jozsef's secret is he better tell her quickly because her biological clock is ticking and she can't waste her time with a man that is available and doesn't want to have children.

Next there is Vera (Agi Gubik) who is married to Attila (Andras Stohl). They have a five year old son together and it has dawn on Attila the child is nothing like him. Their son gets beat up in school and paints pictures of flowers. Attila begins to wonder if the child is his. Does Vera have some secret she is keeping from Attila? Did she cheat on him?

Rounding out the two remaining stories are Szilvi (Rozi Lovas) and Flora (Katya Tompos). Szilvi lives with Balint (Bela Meszaros). She wants to have a baby but Balint thinks they should get married first. And before they get married Balint wants to sleep with other women first. He can't imagine himself sleeping with only one woman for the rest of his sleep. Instead he wants them to become swingers. They meet another couple; Emma (Patricia Kovacs) and Robert (Zoltan Schmied). Flora is married to Peter (Tamas Keresztes). Both are very conservative and religious. Flora however suspects Peter may be seeing a prostitute. He leaves in the afternoon on unexpected appointments.

The movie was directed by Peter Szajki and is only his second feature film. "Our Women" was quite the success in Hungary and it is easy to see why. This is a funny, light-hearted romantic comedy. It tries to create a balance and explore some issues in a more dramatic detail while finding the humor in what we all go through to fall in love.

Americans might recognize Judit Schell from everyone in the cast. She was in another Hungarian romantic comedy "Just Sex and Nothing Else" (Csak szex es mas semmi, 2006) which was released in America. And in some ways the movies are similar. In both movies she plays a older woman looking for love, wanting to have a baby. While the other actors are not known to us, they are quite good. I especially like Agi Gubik and Rozi Lovas. Gubik adds a little more dramatic depth to her character and Lovas seems perfectly suited for romantic comedy.

The weakest story of the bunch may be Flora and Peter's. Their plot isn't really terribly interesting when compared to the others and isn't given as much screen time and detail as the other stories.

"Our Women" is the kind of movie which should have a cross-over appeal and entertain American audiences. It is disappointing the movie has not been distributed in America yet. The movie was released in Hungary two years ago. Sadly there is no market here for Hungarian movies. Over the years I have seen several Hungarian movies at the EU Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival which have been very entertaining and powerful films and unfortunately none of them have been released here. People don't know what they are missing out on. Too bad. "Our Women" is a delightful romantic comedy with some laughs.