Monday, June 22, 2015

To See the Sea (orig. Pojedeme k Moři) [2014]

MPAA (PG-13)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CSFD listing* listing* (J. Gregor) review* (E. Bartlová) review* (M. Třešňáková) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (K. Flila) review*

To See the Sea (orig. Pojedeme k Moři) [2014] [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* (written and directed by Jiří Mádl [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) is a lovely Czech "Boyhood-like" film that's part of the the 2015 Czech That Film Tour organized by the Czech Foreign Ministry / Ministry of Culture, which makes its stop this month (June, 2015) at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago.  Indeed, if not for the release of Boyhood [2014] in the United States at almost exactly the same time last year, the current film could very well have been the Czech Republic's submission to the Oscars  (Instead another excellent though very different film, Fair Play [2014], became the CR's Oscar submission, and also played as part of the 2015 Tour).

The current film is about an 11 year old boy, Tomáš (played by Petr Šimčák [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*), growing-up in the picturesque South Bohemian provincial capital České Budějovice. [Yes, this is the town after which the Anhauser-Busch beer Budweiser derives its name.  And to this day, the town remains famous for its beer, Budvar, which is sold now in the States as "Czechvar"].

Having received a digital camera for his birthday (along with, as he happily explains, a "bundled editing program for the computer") from his parents (played by Ondřej Vetchý [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* and Lucie Trmíková [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*), Tomáš decides to do "what all the great film-makers always tell young people to do... film what you know."  So Tomáš along with his half-Czech / half-Croatian BFF Haris (played by Jan Maršál [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) decide to film the last part (basically the Spring) of their 6th grade year at school.

Much, often cute, often poignant, sometimes quite difficult / sad, ensues ... And since Haris' mom (played by Michaela Majerníková [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) is Croatian, Haris knows something of "the sea" (hence the film's title).

Viewers should remember that this _is_ a film written and directed by the 28-year old previously Czech actor Jiří Mádl [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* in his directorial debut and that Tomáš, Haris, et al are just actors in the story.  The film is also of a quality that would probably exceed the abilities of even the most computer-adept 11-year olds ;-) even if there are some "corny" editing tricks in the film that 11-year-olds would probably "really like." ;-)

I also found it convenient / interesting that I saw the current film on the same weekend as the Pixar/Disney animated feature Inside Out [2015] in which the central protagonist was an 11-year-old girl.  A good part of both films is about the transition from childhood into something more/new ... adolescence.

Finally, I have to hand it to Mádl [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*.  He did a lot of things right in the telling of the story: Tomáš' grandma (played by Jaroslava Pokorná [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) was well drawn (she reminded me honestly a lot of my own Czech grandmother of fond memory) and she played a significant role in the story.  Then both Tomáš' and Haris' households were portrayed as having their secrets which come to be revealed quite well and quite realistically as the story progresses.  Then VERY MUCH TO THE WRITER/DIRECTOR'S CREDIT, he made Haris' CZECH dad "the jerk" as opposed to his Croatian mother (The temptation would have been to make one's own ethnicity, and Mádl is Czech, "the good guy").  Similarly, when Tomáš and Haris find themselves competing "for the girl" a lovely, ever smiling, blond-haired classmate "with a voice of an angel" Stáňa (played by Anastázie Chocholatá [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*) the "right person" (for the sake of the story) "got the girl."

So I am quite impressed with 28-year old Mádl [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]* as a director.  This was one heck of a first directorial effort.  And his future may not be being a Steven Spielberg [IMDb] or a Miloš Forman [IMDb] , it may be of being a Ron Howard [IMDb] ;-).  Honestly, very good job!

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

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