Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A cleverly constructed piece of low-budget filmmaking, Directions punches well above its weight."

If you want to get to know a place, talking to taxi drivers is always a good place to start. It may take you a while to get past the practised spiel they reserve for tourists, but taxi drivers know everything – more, often, than the most astute journalists and politicians. Conversing with people from all walks of life, they are alert to social change – whether or not they understand it.

Directions follows a series of fictional taxi drivers through the city of Sofia over the course of 24 hours. It was shot in pretty much the same time period, with the camera moving from one cab to another for the next vignette in a carefully rehearsed sequence. This gives it some of the immediacy of theatre and a sense of urgency that corresponds to that of many of the passengers in their haste to reach their destinations. It’s given additional realism by the fact that many of the incidents it features are real, based on interviews with cab drivers. They’re brought together to form a loose narrative about changes in Bulgarian society.

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Coming first, and linking the stories together, is the story of a small business owner (working part-time as a cabbie to top up his income) who falls into despair after his livelihood is threatened by corruption, resorting to a desperate act. It’s an act that shocks the city (though without necessarily causing surprise) and others share their views on it throughout, both in the cabs themselves and on the talk radio station that many of the drivers play.

Other episodes introduce themes around suicide, adultery and revenge, but there are also heartwarming moments full of generosity and concern for others. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which way an individual will turn. Some warn that society is becoming more cynical, that people are no longer willing to help each other as they once did. The big picture seems more complicated; and the past, when we hear about it in detail, is not the innocent time that nostalgia suggests.

A cleverly constructed piece of low-budget filmmaking, Directions punches well above its weight. Sometimes funny, sometimes suspenseful, sometimes heartrendingly bleak, it’s a smart way to explore a city and human behaviour.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2018
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A small business owner and part-time cab driver is pushed to the edge by corruption.

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