The Father

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The Father 2019
"Grozeva and Valchanov allow a gentle absurdity to flow through the film." | Photo: Courtesy of KVIFF

After The Lesson and Glory filmmaking duo Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov take a less satirical more warm-hearted approach to their latest film, focusing more on family rather than societal ills as they chart the tricky relationship between a father (Ivan Savov) and his photographer son Pavel (Ivan Barnev, who Czech film fans might remember from his star turn in I Served The King Of England) following the death of the family matriarch.

Grozeva and Valchanov allow a gentle absurdity to flow through the film, largely stemming from the sorts of white lies and unspoken fears that often crop up in parent/child relationships and which bring to mind other recent eastern European farcical family gems Bear With Us and Secret Ingredient. Pavel hasn't told his wife (heard only at the other end of the phone) that his mother has died, for reasons that gradually become apparent. Then again, he hasn't told his dad the real reason his wife isn't there either.

Copy picture

When he arrives at the funeral, however, his dad starts acting strangely, demanding that he take photos of his mother in her coffin. The craziness continues at the wake, as his father begins to tell Pavel about a message his mother was desperate to give him before she passed on the operating table - a story backed by his aunt, who claims the dead woman has been repeatedly calling her mobile. It's clear that Pavel has, for years, got short shrift from his dad, a situation that probably meant it was never easy to help him and which is now rendered even more difficult thanks to the unspoken presence of grief.

While not wanting to fuel his father's imaginings further, his son becomes trapped in facilitating the old man's visit to a New Age clairvoyant - also never actually seen - and the pair of them end up on a sort of limping, odd couple road trip as the younger man, try as he might, can't quite bring himself to leave the older one to his own devices. Comic complications ensue, from a literal and figurative jam in a police station to a more disturbing encounter with money-grabbing bureaucracy at a local hospital. Some of the lengths Pavel goes to in order to retain his secrets - particularly his increasingly baroque descriptions of a work assignment gone wrong to pacify his wife, begin to stray outside the bounds of believability, but it just about stays on the rails thanks to its well-drawn characters and strong central performances.

Beneath the kick of the comedy, the rather endearing message here is, family may be difficult but, in an uncaring world, some things are worth hanging on to, however prickly they might be on occasion.

Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2019
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After losing his wife Ivanka, Vasil believes that she is using his phone to reach him from beyond the grave, so he enlists the services of a psychic to try to make contact with her, much to the concern of his son.

Director: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov

Writer: Kristina Grozeva, Petar Valchanov, Decho Taralezhkov

Starring: Ivan Barnev, Ivan Savov, Tanya Shahova, Hristofor Nedkov, Margita Gosheva, Maria Bakalova, Ana Bratoeva, Georgi Damianov, Boyan Doychinov, Elena Mosholova, Petra Oplatkova, Martina Peneva, Nikolay Todorov, Ivan Barnev, Ivan Savov

Year: 2019

Runtime: 87 minutes

Country: Bulgaria

Festivals:

Karlovy 2019

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If you like this, try:

Bear With Us
Secret Ingredient