Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 1:50 pm 
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Watch this in the virtual series Kino Polska from BAM Apr. 30-May 6, 2021


Ola wants a car

I Never Cry is the gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious tale of Ola (Zofia Stafiej), a 17-year-old Polish girl whose father dies in Ireland. Somebody has to go and get him, and it can't be her mother, so she goes. Her father was supposed to be saving her money for a car that he would send to her when she passed her driving test. As the film begins, she's failing her third. Then the calls comes about her father. "He didn't make it." "Make what?" says Ola; her English is good, but that's an idiom she's unfamiliar with.

What is making it? Is anybody making it in this story? This is the new world of Euro orphans. Ola's dad went to work in Dublin when she was so young she can't remember him. A double irony is added when she is asked to identify his corpse because his face is disfigured by the terrible accident he was in, and the film bluntly shows us this. Thanks to easy cell phone communication, she finds out he had a distinguishing mark, a mole - she knows that word - on his ass, and she knows its him.

The rest of the film is Ola's vivid, super-intense time in Dublin as she arranges for the return of her father, tries to track down the money he saved for her (if he saved any), and above all goes in search of who he was, finding his work mates, a surrogate son called "Kiddo", and through him, a girlfriend. Ola stops at nothing and wangles herself into everything. She doesn't wait to be given; she takes. There are things she can't change, but a lot of barriers she leaps over like a gazelle. She has a maturity and determination fueled by anger at the neglect she has experienced. But as a form of compensation she has tended to ignore her father, too and she can be shamed by this. All these complex feelings, and no time to express or feel them - until, perhaps, in the riotous, typically giddy last few moments.

I Never Cry is almost non-stop action, and is emotional, engaging watching. Its numerous little revelations give a balancing sense of pause and perspective, but one can't pretend that it makes profound sociopolitical points. Such is not its object. I was very impressed by the committed performance by Zofia Stafeij and the many well-cast bit-players who each fill in their needed Polish or English speaking roles; and by the director's intentional but unobtrusive inclusion of a handicapped person, Dawid Tulej, who has cerebral palsy, as Ola's brother.

This is accomplished, gritty, factual filmmaking with a lot of heart; not surprising that the Cineuropia reviewer Ola Salwa invoked Ken Loach and said he "would be proud." But I didn't think of Loach. The Polish point of view is very particular. This is the second feature by the talented Domalewski, who is also an actor, musician, and maker of short films. His 2017 debut feature, Silent Night/Cicha nioc, which focused on a Polish overseas worker who returns home for Christmas, won multiple awards.

I Never Cry/(Jak najdalej stad, 98 mins., debuted Sept. 28 2020 at San Sebastian, showing in at least seven other festivals including Busan, Tokyo and Thessaloniki. Screened for this review as part of the seven-film virtual Brooklyn Academy of Music Apr. 30-May 6, 2021 Kino Polska series.

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