Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"This is black comedy at its best, subtle, confident in deadpan, as bleak and dry as a sun-scorched siding."

Tzako Petrov is a railwayman, a linesman, an honest trade. The tools of his profession are various: a wrench, six heavy kilos of bolt tapping and turning; his ears for the distinct ring of a taut bit of line; his eyes for the various hazards that detritus might pose to trains; his watch, a timepiece made by a firm called Glory.

His patrol is interrupted by a discovery - a high denomination note. Then another, larger. The gods are not smiling upon Tzako, however - he finds more. Much, much, much more, a great tumbling drift of paper money, an avalanche of cash, a tide of wealth, a former People's Republic's democratically-elected President's ransom.

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He's an honest man, is Tzako, but those he encounters afterwards are not. This is black comedy at its best, subtle, confident in deadpan, as bleak and dry as a sun-scorched siding.

Co-directed by Kristine Grozeva and Petar Valchanov, who also co-wrote with Decho Taralezhkov (who also appears on screen), it's a film anchored in two very different performances. Shot with an almost documentary eye, it focuses on its two central characters, both railway employees but comprehensively distinct. Tzako is Stefan Denolyubov, almost inutterably convincing as an honest worker, and his noble act brings him into contact with Julia Staykova, played by Margita Gosheva a panjandrum within the railway's PR department. In a role that is predicated upon willful duplicity she is never less than convincing. She (and Denolyubov, Grozeva and Valchanov and others) have worked together before, and filmicly they are certainly a more smoothly operating machine than the railways. While they are rife with corruption, the performances throughout are strong enough that no scenes are stolen - indeed, so generous is the film with its subtleties that audiences are encouraged to stay through the end of the credits. Of course, that's the morally correct and responsible thing to do, but here there are more audible, tangible rewards.

This is a film that abounds with small details, rewards observation - lines delivered once have payoffs later, but sometimes that humour is in implicit consequence. The tool of Tzako's trade might be a wrench but the consequences of his honesty are a spanner in the works. At one point there is a complaint that "this isn't how it's supposed to be done", but this is not the case - this is a masterclass of mordant humour, like much of its railway landscape - cutting.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2017
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A railway worker finds a large amount of money on the line and duly hands it over to the authorities, who give him a watch, which stops working.
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Director: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov

Writer: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Decho Taralezhkov

Starring: Stefan Denolyubov , Margita Gosheva

Year: 2016

Runtime: 101 minutes

Country: Bulgaria, Greece


Locarno 2016
EIFF 2017

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