Monday, March 4, 2013

Faith, Love and Whiskey [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing

Faith, Love and Whiskey [2012] (directed and cowritten by Kristina Nikolova along with Paul Dailo) is a simple, poignant and award winning "indie feeling" Bulgarian film that played at Chicago's 16th Annual European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago.

Neli (played by Ana Stojanovska) is a young Bulgarian woman who's "made good."  She came to the United States some years back and bagged a nice (and successful) American fiancé named Scott (played by John Keabler).  Yet, one evening as she's gently leaning over the railing on the balcony of her and her fiancé's Manhattan apartment basking in the skyline, she realizes that she still has to go home.  Her fiancé is completely supportive.  So she packs her bags and flies back to Bulgaria (alone) for one last time before getting married.

When she arrives in presumably Sofia, it's exactly as she remembers it - louder, perhaps less sophisticated but alive. (Last year, while reviewing another GREAT Bulgarian film, Avé [2011], that played at this same film festival, I noted that "Bulgaria sometimes seems to me like the New Jersey of Eastern Europe," and this film, while sunnier than the other one, continues to offer an American viewer that possibility for comprehension: Neli may have flown back to Bulgaria, but she could have simply crossed the Hudson River to visit her family and friends in Hoboken (Frank Sinatra's hometown) or Asbury Park (immortalized by Bruce Springsteen), NJ and the story would have been very similar. 

When Neli comes back, she goes straight to her grandma (apparently her mother had died when she was young).  And Neli's grandma just loves her and is PROUD AS PIE that her grand-daughter is marrying an American "named SKOT."

She then also visits her friends, and this is a little more tense.  One of her friends asks: "So how are those Americans?"  She answers: "Well they're more goal oriented.  Success is a major value to them."  Val (played by Valeri Yordanov) who turns out to have been her old boyfriend before she left Bulgaria, interrupts her and says: "So you're saying that they're not losers like us Bulgarians..."  Val's subsequent blue streaked mohawk wearing girl-friend Sophia (played by Lidia Indjova) quickly sizes up the situation.  Soon afterward, she asks Val: "Did you sleep with her?" Of course he had ...

Yet despite Val's "uncoothness" (he has an ENORMOUS tattoo or perhaps simply GIGANTIC green tattoo stain that covers most of his back), it becomes obvious that he still loves Neli and, yes, in a way that the otherwise far-and-away leagues more successful Scott never could.  After all, they grew-up together.  They knew each others unspoken moods and mannerisms.  And it's almost certain that Neli could never know Scott the way she knew Val.  What the heck to do?

So things between Neli and Val soon reignite.  In the meantime, Scott's back in New York and after a number of missed calls and hurried texts, he gets worried.  So HE buys a ticket and flies out to Bulgaria to reconnect with Neli.

THIS IS AN OUTSTANDING FILM that ANYONE who's been living "between cultures" (or DATING SOMEONE "between cultures") would understand and/or OUGHT TO SEE.

And one can not but feel for Neli.  She has two people who clearly love her and offer her two very different kinds of lives/futures AND HONESTLY BOTH LIVES/FUTURES ARE GOOD.  Yet there she is, and she's doomed to have to hurt one of these two guys...

Again, there're "a few" Springsteen songs that touch-on the same dilemma ;-)

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