While on the lam in a small Estonian burg, an attractive Latvian thief with ice water in her veins learns the value of loving and being loved before moving on to more mischief in engaging charmer "Good Hands." Unique co-prod will be fingered by fests and could clutch some arthouse biz before grabbing a firm hold in ancillary.

While on the lam in a small Estonian burg, an attractive Latvian thief with ice water in her veins learns the value of loving and being loved before moving on to more mischief in engaging charmer “Good Hands.” Unique co-prod will be fingered by fests and could clutch some arthouse biz before grabbing a firm hold in ancillary.

Bold-as-brass blond pickpocket Margita (Rezija Kalnina) flees to Estonia after her sister Evija (Leonarda Klavina) is hurt in an elaborate Latvian scam involving an SUV. Pulling into the village of Vineeri, Margita proves to be human after all when she interrupts stealing the car of elderly swimmer Adolph (Lembit Ulfsak) under the mistaken impression he’s drowning. Through Adolph she meets his equally feisty pal Lepik (Tonu Kark), self-described “best dentist in town because there aren’t any others.”

Her assimilation into the populace is complete when she inherits precocious moppet Pavo (Atis Tenbergs), who’s so clever he can steal cash-machine PIN numbers by feeling for the warmth of previous user’s fingers. Other picturesque locals lurking beneath Vineeri’s thin veneer of rustic peace include pub owner Indrek (Gert Raudsepp) and postman Peeter (Lauri Nebel).

Things begin to grow complicated when, for protective coloration, Margita takes up with town cop Arnold (Tiit Sukk), who just happens to be Adolph’s son. Fearing she’s about to be found out, Margita finally reconnects with Evija for a final surprise and much-needed freedom.

Estonian-born vet helmer Peeter Simm, who had a fest hit in 1989 with “A Man Who Wasn’t There,” brings a sure hand and a nice pace to the proceedings, a gambit that falters only in the early minutes of Margita’s relationship with the boy. Mixed cast of Latvian and Estonian nationals clearly are on same whimsical wavelength, with rubber-faced Kark a standout as the eccentric medico forced to clean his own teeth in the absence of any competition.

Tech credits are skilled, with surprising level of gloss and polish on display. Pic shared Berlin’s third Laser Video Titrages/Manfred Salzgeber prize for “innovative European feature film” with Maja Weiss’ Slovene-German co-prod “Guardian of the Frontier.” Closing credits are in both Estonian and Latvian.

Good Hands

Estonia-Latvia

Production

An Allfilm (Estonia), FORMA (Latvia) production. (International sales: First Hand Films, Zurich/Berlin.) Produced by Artur Talvik, Gatis Upmalis. Directed by Peeter Simm. Screenplay, Toomas Raudam, Simm.

Crew

Camera (color), Uldis Jancis; editor, Sirje Haagel; production designer, Ronald Kolmann; costume designer, Ieva Kundzina; sound (Dolby Digital), Ivo Felt; assistant director, Terje Kessel. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 9, 2002. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Rezija Kalnina, Leonarda Klavina, Tiit Sukk, Maija Apine, Atis Tenbergs, Lembit Ulfsak, Tonu Kark, Gert Raudsepp, Regnars Vaivars, Lauri Nebel.
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