Friday, March 28, 2014

Our Women (orig. Nejem, nőm, csajom) [2012]

MPAA (UR would be R) (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing

HMDb listing* listing* (Z. Aprily) review* (Z. Poor) review*
FilmTekercs (S. Esther) review*

Our Women (orig. Nejem, nőm, csajom) [2012] [IMDb] [HMDb]* (directed and screenplay cowritten by Péter Szajki [IMDb] [HMDb]* along with Adél Vörös [IMDb] [HMDb]*, story by Iván Angelusz [IMDb]  and Péter Reich [IMDb]) is a Hungarian romantic comedy/dramedy about the stories of four women living in contemporary Budapest.  Indeed, though they don't know each other (their stories are being recounted by two ladies working in a hair salon) the story plays-out like a contemporary Hungarian Sex and the City [IMDb].  The film played recently at the 17th Annual European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.

The lives of all four of the women (and their husbands / significant others) are totally relatable to an American /Western audience.  Yet they also have a distinctly Hungarian twist:   For instance, after the devastation of World War II and then 50 years of Communism, morals are on the one hand looser than in most of the U.S. On the other hand, Christianity -- Catholicism being the dominant form, but as this film shows Protestantism, most likely in the form of Lutheranism, is present as well -- still who holds some sway if for many in perhaps often limited to a nostalgic sort of way.

So what are the stories/trials of the four women?

In the first case there's Vera (played by Ági Gubik [IMDb] [HMDb]*) who's married to Attilla (played by András Stohl [IMDb] [HMDb]*) a medical doctor, but together they've had a great deal of trouble having children.  Well, 6 years ago, Vera got pregnant.  How after all those years of trying?  She tells him then that perhaps it was a miracle.  Not necessarily believing in "miracles" (Attilla's a medical doctor after all) he shrugged it off back then.  Now, seeing that their five year old son is not taking after _anybody_ in his family -- Attilla's family was one of athletes, soldiers and otherwise "macho achievers" and the son obviously going to be an artist -- he has renewed questions.  What happened back then?  And why?

In the second case, there's Szilvi (played by Rozi Lovas [IMDb] [HMDb]*) who's living with Bálint (played by Béla Mészáros [IMDb] [HMDb]*) who she'd love to marry and start a family with, but he's "not ready" and would first like to "swing" (!) "for a year or two."  At first she tries to go along, and they even find (in eminently "sophisticated fashion" ... over the internet) another (again "very sophisticated"...) couple to do so with.  But when it comes to the point of actually doing this, she can't bring herself to do so.  What now?

The third case involves Helga (played by Judit Schell [IMDb] [HMDb]*) a very successful now 40-something Hungarian TV personality, but one who's never been able to land a guy who's neither intimidated by her nor a jerk.  Well, she is now seeing someone, József  (played by Péter Rudolf [IMDb] [HMDb]*), somewhat older than her, certainly less successful than her, but at least "bag over the head" ugly or with some other more or less obvious problem.  But after two months, why is _he_ not interested in taking their relationship to the next level?  (No he's not gay, and yes he's had mutually satisfying relationships with women before... so what's the problem _now_?)

Finally, there's Flóra (played by Kátya Tompos [IMDb] [HMDb]*) a good dutiful wife of a seemingly good dutiful/humble Lutheran/Protestant (or otherwise some kind of lay Catholic) minister named Péter (played by Tamás Keresztes [IMDb] [HMDb]*).  Together they have several children and they are certainly of a more humble social class than the three other couples presented in the story.  Yet Flóra becomes convinced that Péter is cheating on her.  Well is he?  And if so why?  And if he is, what now?

All of these stories are IMHO surprisingly good.  I myself have had to deal with the "swinging" issue in Confession a couple of times over the years (nothing is new under the sun ...) with the partner confessing telling me exactly what Szilvi was trying to tell her boyfriend (who she wished would become her husband): "I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS" with the partner apparently having difficulty hearing (and more to the point respecting) that.  Then the episode with the self-evidently Christian couple is _surprisingly_ nuanced.

This is a very good story, and it'd be interesting if Hollywood or _perhaps_ the African American community (Tyler Perry, are you listening? ;-) would pick this one up.

In any case, very good job!

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.  

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