The Lucky Ones


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Lucky Ones
"In just under half an hour we get a glimpse into scores of lives, all just after major changes."

Tomasz Wolski has produced an amazing film. Somehow he has managed to access a Krakow Registry Office. The lucky ones here are various - brides-to-be, mothers, fathers, widows. Captured at proud, sad, difficult moments, relationships tested by strict regulations, the processes seeming at once archaic, informal, overly bureaucratic, and humanised by the efforts of the staff.

There are a number of affecting moments: couples in tears as they get married, one moment of nerves neatly indicated by clever subtitling. There's humour in a couple of places, tragedy in others. At one point registration of a birth is interrupted by a phonecall whose content is shocking, but there are also stories of marriages that are heart-rending. What's striking is how distinct some elements of the Polish system are - there's a ceremony where medals are awarded to a couple who have been married for 50 years, and the call for speakers has somewhat unexpected results.

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In just under half an hour we get a glimpse into scores of lives, all just after major changes. The stories they tell, and the moments that we see are all in their own way powerful. Central to it are the staff, officiating weddings, counselling couples as they come to get married, talking parents through the intricacies of birth registrations within the rules. All of these moments will be familiar, some sadly so, to audiences, but what distinguishes The Lucky Ones is the approach of its subject, and its approach to those who enforce and are subjected to those rules.

Wolski has worked on previous documentaries, Goldfish, Hospital, and Born Dead, none of which are shy in their subjects. The Lucky Ones is unflinching, almost stark in places. While mapping how the state interacts with birth, marriages and deaths, it also captures how people deal with them. The waiting rooms are one thing, the forms another, but there are also the scissors, the flash of steel across the corner of an identity card. Judgements, arguments, careful explanations abound - sensitive times, sensitive subjects, but as those we see are lucky because they are here to interact with the registry, we, the audience, are luckier still.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2010
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The comings and goings at a Registry Office in Krakow.
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Director: Tomasz Wolski

Year: 2009

Runtime: 27 minutes

Country: Poland


EIFF 2010

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The Wedding