How Viktor "The Garlic" Took Alexey "The Stud" To The Nursing Home

***1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Viktor The Garlic
"Hant and Borodachyov's neatest trick is the way that the two men's awfulness to one another - a sort of no-holds-barred bitter-off - paradoxically stokes our sympathies."

The anarchic length of the title of Alexander Hant's debut, written by Aleksey Borodachyov, gives a taste of the freewheeling energy to come in this satirical road trip with menaces. Recalling the sparkiness of early Danny Boyle and Guy Ritchie, this film may be set firmly in Russia but the characteristics of its antihero will be familiar to many.

Viktor (Evgeniy Tkachuk) is what they used to call a wannabe 'hard man'. Operating on 70 per cent testosterone and 30 per cent alcohol, he has a dangerous mixture of vanity and violence running through his veins. The sort of guy whose idea of 'dress wear' is to switch out a pair of day-glo trainers with his regular ones to sex-up his tracksuit, his cock-of-the-walk strut is just one outward display of the thinly veiled anger at his lot. The lot in question, involves a dead-end job, a wife and young son and a mistress that he has aspirations of setting up a love nest with, if only his childhood sob-story - dad in jail, mum dead by suicide - will cut some ice with a lender.

Copy picture

Things take an unexpected turn when dad Alexey (Alexey Serebryakov) arrives back on the scene, albeit potentially on his death bed. With the prospect of a flat inheritance - love nest, ahoy! - Viktor agrees to take Alexey to the nursing home, the only problem being that the nearest one is more than a day's drive away. Loading his dad like luggage in the back of his minivan, the pair of them set off. Needless to say, this is not a journey that is going to go to plan and soon the pair of them have formed an acidic double-act, with Viktor proving to have fallen so close to the tree it hurts. Hant and Borodachyov's neatest trick is the way that the two men's awfulness to one another - a sort of no-holds-barred bitter-off - paradoxically stokes our sympathies.

While Borodachyov ratchetts up the story absurdity levels with everything from a chicken-carrying hitchhiker to gangland thugs, Hant keeps his foot on the throttle, roving with his camera and giving everything a grotesque, almost cartoon-like, acid-bright sheen, while still managing to retain a naturalism in terms of the emotions. The sideswipes at Russian society and masculinity come thick and fast. Despite displays of violence, Viktor somehow always seems to be on the receiving end when it comes to women and, when we finally meet a real 'Mr Big', even he seems to be of the Poundshop variety. The gags, particularly visual, may skate across the surface, but underneath all that, there's a melancholy, even bleak, underpinning that offers a surprising amount of emotional heft while preventing the action becoming sentimental, even as the road trip formula arrives at its inevitable destination.

The winner of the East of West sidebar competition at this year's Karlovy Vary Film Festival, Hant's take-no-prisoners style marks him out as one to watch.

Reviewed on: 29 Nov 2017
Share this with others on...
How Viktor "The Garlic" Took Alexey "The Stud" To The Nursing Home packshot
An estranged father and son get to know each other on a road trip from hell.

Director: Alexander Hant

Writer: Aleksey Borodachyov

Starring: Yevgeny Tkachuk, Alexey Serebryakov, Andrey Smirnov, Alina Nasibullina, Olga Oblasova

Year: 2017

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Russia

Festivals:

Karlovy 2017

Search database: