Thursday, June 9, 2016

Home Care (Domácí Péče) [2015]

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

IMDb listing listing listing* listing* (J. Gregor) review* (B. Ondrášková) review* (K. Benešová) review* (M. Spáčilová) review* (E. Ťapajová) review* (E. Luna) review* (M. Kudláč) review (J. Kermode) review
Variety (A. Simon) review

Home Care (Domácí Péče) [2015] [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu] (written / directed by Slávek Horák [IMDb] [CSFD]* [FDB]* [CEu]) is a four Czech Lion (the C.R.'s equivalent of the Oscars) winning Czech / Slovak co-production that played recently at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center as part of the 2016 Czech That Film Tour organized annually by the Czech Ministry of Culture and the Czech Diplomatic Mission to the United States.  A few months previous, the film played here as part of 2016 Chicago European Film Festival held also at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

The film, set presumably in the Moravian country-side is about a country nurse in her late-40s-50s named Vlasta (played by Alena Mihulová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDB]*).  Her age is important here because it means that she would have received her training still basically during the Communist Era which came to an end with the Velvet Revolution in 1989 (25-26 years ago). 

As such, each day, if _not necessarily cheerfully_ then _certainly selflessly_, she would pin her hair back into a functional characteristically Communist-Era bun, pick-up her two rather sizable though not impossibly heavy bags filled with standard issue / practical medical gear and medicines, and set-off by foot / by bus to do her rounds through the various towns and villages that were in the district where she lived, dispensing _largely soulless_ if certainly _practical / efficient_ medical care to the various elderly / shut-ins that she had been assigned to.   She did this without complaining, sincerely believing that even if her patients were generally somewhere between depressed and cranky and rarely particularly grateful, that her service was still important.  Why?  Not because she expected any particular recompense for it (be it in this world or the next) but because it was simply the right thing to do / her job. 

At home, she was in what most of us Viewers would call a largely loveless (but _not_ hostile) marriage to Lad'a (played by Boleslav Polívka [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDb]*).  Neither of them "stewed" with any kind of great resentment, they didn't argue, they - he, already retired, she approaching it someday - just "didn't have a whole lot to say."

Together they had a grown daughter Marcela (played by Sára Venclovská [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDb]*) who had moved out some time ago "for the city" and who "didn't come around much ..."  Again, both Vlasta and Lad'a had did their duty to society by having gotten married, creating and raising reasonably well a reasonably good daughter and (all of them) having stayed all their lives basically out of trouble.

HONESTLY FOLKS, they (all) lived basically what would have been the PAST-COMMUNIST ERA socialist ideal.  And none of them were in any way "bad people" ... just kinda ... well ... soulless ... could one say? ... "walking dead" ... _not_ EVIL "walking dead" ... just "kinda nothing going on walking dead" ... until one finally ... hopefully, eventually ... died."

Into this "every day is really like every other day" existence, (NEW) LIFE does (slowly) (re-)enter.

It first comes into the story fairly early.  Vlasta is surprised that after successfully (again, she's done this many times before) fooling the dog in the front yard of a random shut-in that she would visit on her rounds (she diverted the dog apparently with a small piece of sausage...) there was another person the house there with said shut-in, some sort of a massage therapist or perhaps more precisely some sort of a new age-y "healer" named Hanáčková (played wonderfully by Tatiana Vilhelmová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDb]*) who was "warming" the back of said shut-in with her hands, giving him some sort of an "aura rubdown" transferring "heat" from her hands to his back without even actually touching him.

Vlasta kinda rolls her eyes, responding cheerfully: "O Mr [Slezák, or otherwise random Czech/Slovak name] if your back was cold, you could have just used the electric blanket that I left you," to which the healer responded: "Oh yes the one that put a burn on his back ..." showing him a fairly large rectangular burn on his back, which he had received from said electric blanket a day or two earlier when he apparently fell asleep on the electric blanket and then could not get off of it quickly enough when it began to burn him. "Well how much 'energy' can you transfer to him with your hands anyway?" Vlasta asks as she diligently sets-up the shut-in's various medicines, lined up in an array shot glasses, for the coming days.  The healer, now irritated, tosses a bent metal fork toward her, "Try doing that yourself dear."  Vlasta tries bending the fork back into its regular shape finds, wow, that's pretty impressive.

Okay, that was an odd encounter.  But any rural area in the world has its "kooks."  When her job is done, Vlasta picks up her rather but not impossibly heavy bags and heads out the door (past the dog who was apparently diverted by something else by this point) and to her next shut in ...

A couple of days later ... Vlasta finds her rather stable, not much happening world, ruffled a little more ... by the bus that she was taking having to wait on some random country road while workmen suspended their work to get out of the way to let it pass.  What were they working on?  Putting in an "underpass" FOR FROGS.  "For frogs?" Vlasta asks. "Yes m'am, the EU gave our district x-amount of Euros to put in an underpass for frogs," the forman responds."Here?" "Yes m'am, here."  "Why?"  "I have no idea m'am, but they say that frogs pass over this road at night and it's not good for the frogs and not good for the motorists.  So the EU gave us money for an 'underpass' -- a pipe -- for the frogs."  "Will it work?" "Will the frogs actually use such an underpass" "Don't know, don't care m'am ... besides your bus is about to leave."

A few days later, she finds that the underpass for the frogs was not a bad idea as after hitching a ride on a motor-scooter (she missed the last bus because a particularly cranky shut-in that afternoon, her now holding her two rather but not impossibly heavy bags in her hands while sitting on said motorscotter) the motorcyclist crashes as a result of slipping on one of those frogs crossing the road at night ...

She wakes up in the hospital later that evening, fortunately her accident was not too bad, BUT the MRI that they took at the hospital revealed something else ... she had cancer in her abdomen.  She didn't know, how could she not know, she was even a nurse after all?  Apparently she didn't.  And more to the point, the doctor tells her that there really isn't all that much that they could do for with regard to the cancer ...

The rest of the movie follows ;-)

Now to the film-makers' credit (and as a Czech, I do believe that this was _typically_ Czech) the film:

(1) doesn't make "alternative medicine" as something of a "miracle cure for her" and

(2) Vlasta doesn't _simply_ go to the New Agey healer and later to an old "neo-pagan" Slovakian bába (witch ;-) played wonderfully by Zuzana Kronerová [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDb]*)  who serves as the healer's "mentor."  SHE ALSO TALKS (with new eyes / ears) with another Slovakian -- a Catholic Priest (played by František Harnúšek [IMDb] [CSFD]*[FDb]*).  The film-makers wanted to underline that when one starts talking of "alternative medicine," to be fair, one has to talk about everything _including_ traditional Catholic / Christian prayer.

And yes ... somewhat of a spoiler alert ... NONE OF THIS REALLY MAKES HER (PHYSICALLY) BETTER ... BUT ... by the end of the film, she's ... CLEARLY a HAPPIER / MORE ALIVE PERSON _even though_ SHE'S DYING ;-)

Great story / film, giving one much to think about.  Indeed, "One does not live by bread alone" (Matt 4:4 ;-)

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

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