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KARLOVY VARY 2022 Proxima

Review: And Then There Was Love…

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- Šimon Holý’s sophomore feature is a quirky, melancholic comedy about two generations struggling to understand each other

Review: And Then There Was Love…

Showcased in the Proxima strand of this year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, young helmer Šimon Holý’s second feature is a quirky, melancholic comedy characterised by a linear narrative structure and a good dose of deadpan humour. Holý debuted with Mirrors in the Dark [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Šimon Holý
film profile
]
last year, a tale of a dancer at a crossroads in her life, screened at the same Czech gathering.

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His new movie, titled And Then There Was Love... [+see also:
trailer
interview: Šimon Holý
film profile
]
, revolves around a 60-year-old woman called Kristýna (Pavla Tomicová), hopeless, depressed and in a desperate search for love. Somehow, Kristýna is convinced that the best way to handle her numerous problems is to travel to the Vysočina highlands. There, she will see a fortune-teller, Zdena (Tereza Hofová), who will charge her more than €600 for a short stay in her middle-of-nowhere countryside house and will read her tarot. However, Kristýna won’t be travelling to the highlands alone, as she will force her reluctant, thirty-something daughter Sára (Sára Venclovská) to come along and undergo this strange “exoteric therapy.”

Overall, Tomicová and Venclovská do a fair job at depicting the two lead characters. Kristýna is riddled by several frustrations and demons of her past, and appears ready to believe in anything that could cheer her up. She seems to struggle with accepting that she’s not young anymore. But don’t expect to see a lady obsessed with cosmetics, plastic surgery or youthful looks. What Kristýna misses the most is perhaps the light-heartedness and the freedom of her young days, and this makes her character less stereotypical and much more sympathetic. Meanwhile, Sára appears to be a more rational, grounded woman who has a hard time understanding why her mother keeps on making so many bad choices, including a clumsy flirtation with a careless colleague who could be her son.

Their conflicts allow Holý to explore with sufficient depth themes of intergenerational clash and growing up in a dysfunctional family. While these are certainly not novel subjects, the director manages to make them plain to see on screen through clever comedic devices and engaging intimate dialogues.

Here, the fortune-teller acts as a sort of strange mediator. Viewers may be undecided whether to label her a charlatan or someone who genuinely believes in the art of card reading as a tool to help people out. Interestingly, the character is introduced through an Instagram story, wherein she claims that this will be “the first and last video” she will publish as she feels that “she must do that.” The truth is that she is promoting her “card reading experience” through a sort of bizarre comparative advertising practice, as she won’t charge “20 euros just to answer one single question” like someone else did recently.

The closure of the narrative arc does enough justice to the characters’ development, and the last scene (the very last frame in particular) leaves a touch of ambiguity about Zdena’s character and her card reading activities that some spectators may truly appreciate.

And Then There Was Love…. is a Czech production staged by Hudlice-based šššššFilm and Prague-based Aerofilms.

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