Review: ‘Tomorrow’s Weather’

Actor-writer-director Jerzy Stuhr wags his finger at modern Poland with such an overbearing hand that the social criticism doesn't stick. Disappointing followup to Kieslowski adaptation "The Animal." Following fests and prizes, Stuhr's latest will play primarily to local and East European auds.

In “Tomorrow’s Weather,” actor-writer-director Jerzy Stuhr wags his finger at modern Poland with such an overbearing hand that the social criticism doesn’t stick. A disappointing followup to his wonderful Kieslowski adaptation “The Animal,” pic reaffirms Stuhr’s rep as an actor uncommonly skilled at expressing an Everyman’s sentiments, but fails to meld the lighter and darker tones of the story of a long-vanished father’s unexpected reappearance in the life of his ultra-mod family. Following fests and prizes — and inclusion in the European Community-sponsored “Torn Curtain” series — Stuhr’s latest will play primarily to local and East European auds.

Seen initially praying for forgiveness for his cowardice, monk Josef (Stuhr) has singing skills that he puts to good use during a religious/music fest. Spotted warbling away with his fellow friars by wife Renata (Malgorzata Zajaczkowska) and adult son Marcin (Maciej Stuhr, the helmer’s son), he’s exposed as having deserted his family 17 years earlier.

Josef is booted out of the monastery, but Renata overcomes her anger, and invites him to stay at her home, where she lives with new hubby Czeslaw (Krzystof Glosisz), Marcin and daughters Ola (Barbara Kaluzna) and Kinga (Roma Gasiorowska). The clan treats Josef with estranged fascination and outright bitterness, and this complicated stew of emotions — plus Stuhr’s deliberately neutral visual approach as a director — sets up “Tomorrow’s Weather” as a possibly fascinating and shaded view of a contempo family in crisis.

Script by Mieczyslaw Herba and Stuhr takes pains to stand back from fully sympathizing with Josef, but also jabs at nouveau capitalism, the media and youth culture. Josef seems to understand why Renata has him live in the garage, and he accepts Czeslaw. Thanks to Stuhr’s gifts as an actor with an extra melancholy gene, his Josef even seems to understand why his children are so harsh with him.

Still, while Renata appears to be too busy with her own life to monitor the children’s, Josef takes every moment to check up on them. He takes a job driving a van for Marcin’s slick political campaign, and sees it’s a self-serving blend of right-wing rhetoric and TV hucksterism.

Even worse, he finds Kinga running around with a fast crowd who indulge in drugs and public sex, while Ola has her own adult reality TV gameshow in which she’s often semi-nude. Pic’s running joke — which soon runs thin — is that as Josef tries to get close to his loved ones, he triggers (mostly) unintended accidents that send them all to the hospital (where they finally have a brief, semi-bitter reunion).

In the course of decrying modern excess, “Tomorrow’s Weather” goes overboard itself, with a lunge toward Swiftian satire that frustratingly tends to hold back the laughs. Where “The Animal” found a precise way of mocking social conventions, “Weather” feels like an elder’s angry screed toward upstarts, and demonstrates that the Polish knack for spoofing old Communist targets has a harder time in the new corporate world.

Casting is fair but uninspired, with the daughter roles by Kaluzna and Gasiorowska ringing especially false. The Stuhrs, father and son, work with effective friction. Production elements are solidly pro, but they don’t go for that extra level of artfulness.

Tomorrow's Weather

Poland

Production

A Polish Television/Zebra Film Studio/WFDiF/ITI Film Studio presentation. (International sales: Polish Television, Warsaw.) Produced by Juliusz Machulski. Directed by Jerzy Stuhr. Screenplay, Mieczyslaw Herba, Stuhr.

Crew

Camera (WFDiF color), Edward Klosinski; editor, Elzbieta Kurkowska; music, Abel Korseniowski; production designer, Monika Sajko-Gradowska; costume designer, Elzbieta Radke; makeup, Iwona Blicharz; sound (Dolby Digital), Nikodem Wolk-Laniewski; assistant director, Sylwia Czaplewska. Reviewed on videotape, Los Angeles, April 25, 2004. (In Polish Film Festival, Santa Monica. Also in Rotterdam Film Festival.) Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Josef - Jerzy Stuhr Renata - Malgorzata Zajaczkowska Marcin - Maciej Stuhr Ola/Claudia - Barbara Kaluzna Kinga - Roma Gasiorowska Czeslaw - Krzystof Glosisz Jan - Andrzej Chyra
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