Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Every now and again a film comes along that takes us outside the narrative structures we're familiar with and invites us to look at the world with an entirely fresh perspective. Tricks is one of those films. It's a rare slice of magical realism crafted with such precision that it almost convinces us the rules have changed not only within the film but within life as a whole.

The excellent Damian Ul, who has an edginess reminiscent of Thomas Turgoose in This Is England, plays Stefek, a boy whose life is governed largely by his older sister, Elka (Ewelina Walendziak). Their mother is withdrawn and is rarely seen outside the shop where she works; their father went away before Stefek was born, the very mention of him prompting distress in Elka.

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She has her own concerns and can't keep an eye on the boy all the time, so he largely does what he wants, whether that's persuading her boyfriend to take him on a motorbike ride or playing with metal soldiers on the railways tracks. Watching him do so, we are at first perplexed by the apparent randomness of his interests, but there's a method to them. This we can see as he tries, in a very scientific way, to work out just what it is about an elderly neighbour's signalling that inspires his doves to fly out of their cage.

The film unfolds like a traditional mystery in reverse - the clues are all there at the outset, but we don't know what we're investigating. Gradually it becomes apparent that Stefek has a singular purpose in mind, and that all his small acts are steps toward it, whether or not they work in the ways he expects or believes. What seem to count more than anything he actually does are his faith and his will.

With so much going on beneath its apparently placid surface, Tricks is a film that will draw you in and gradually ensnare you with its magic, like a stranger visiting an enchanted village. It's beautifully filmed, illustrating the sense of wonder with which a child can look at the most drab environment. Director Jakimowski uses light in a painterly way, helping us to understand the rich potential Stefek finds in everything he encounters.

If you want to get away from the world for a while, sit back and let yourself be charmed, Tricks is a delight.

Reviewed on: 15 Feb 2009
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A young boy sets out to prove that a man he sees at the station is really his lost father.
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London 2008

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