Consequences

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Consequences
"Shooting under predominantly grey skies in landscapes built of concrete, chipboard and peeling plaster, director Darko Stante invites the audience to share Andrej's feelings of confinement and hopelessness." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

The notion behind youth detention is that it places troubled young people in a situation where they have to live by strict rules and learn the discipline that will enable them to control their behaviour. Sometimes counselling and similar services are also available to help them understand the source of their frustrations and manage them more effectively. All too often, however, what it really means is that young people are placed in an area where discipline is ineffective and their learning experiences come instead from their peers - including those much more messed up than they are. This is the case at the facility where Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is sent, where his simple adolescent rebelliousness will turn into something much worse. Everybody keeps telling him that there will be consequences when he misbehaves, but nobody really seems to understand how vulnerable he is, least of all himself.

Andrej doesn't meet the first criterion by which most people measure vulnerability. He can handle himself in a fight. This matters, as in any detention scenario. Pinning down bad boy gang leader Zele (Timon Sturbej) in a scuffle over cigarettes may initially make him powerful enemies but it raises his status and before long he's part of Zele's gang himself, revelling in how easy it has become to get what he wants. Theft and extortion fuel travel, all-night drinking sessions and seemingly carefree bisexual orgies which enable Andrej to express a part of himself he has previously had to keep secret. All the time, however, he's falling more and more deeply under Zele's spell and being asked to do things that sit uneasily with the moral values he can't so easily discard.

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The success of this film really hinges on Zemljic's work and on building up a portrait of Andrej that's complex enough to let us see beyond the image he strives to project. In this it does not disappoint. Snippets of the youth's home life reveal the context within which he's trying to define himself, and we also see something of the struggle he's had to conceal his sexuality, the extent to which being seen as a thug provides a defence. We also see the pictures he keeps on his phone of his white rat Fifa, revealing his capacity for affection and hinting at the inherent tragedy of a life in which it's only really safe to be human with someone who isn't.

Shooting under predominantly grey skies in landscapes built of concrete, chipboard and peeling plaster, director Darko Stante invites the audience to share Andrej's feelings of confinement and hopelessness, only opening up space in front of the camera when he's contemplating escape - generally on Zele's terms. In times of stress our perspective becomes incredibly narrow. Aside from Fifa and the nursery school outdoor play area where Andrej briefly seeks sanctuary, there is nothing that is beautiful or cute in the film; the hedonistic scenes provide nothing in the way of emotional nourishment. Yet if this makes the viewer want to pull away, the intensity of Zemljic's performance keeps one watching. It's the sense of his greater potential, of what is at risk, that takes the film to its darkest places.

A bold film taking on a subject that many would rather look away from, Consequences isn't entirely surprising but nevertheless packs a punch.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2019
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A teenager is forced to choose between a charismatic young man he meets in a detention centre and his own sense of moral integrity.

Festivals:

London 2018
Flare 2019

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