An idealistic Flemish journo has a hard time putting his money where his mouth is in helmer Jan Verheyen’s “Cut Loose,” a dramedy that tackles hot-button topics such as euthanasia and immigrant rights from a strictly personal p.o.v. Though the screenplay occasionally skirts TV territory, this good-humored pic about weighty issues remains involving, thanks to an ace performance from legit actor Pepijn Caudron and sumptuous widescreen lensing. Flemish auds were not indifferent to this September release, and further fest action is guaranteed.
Pic is adapted from a semi-autobiographical novel by Dutch-language journo Tom Naegels, who is the film’s protag as well as an outsider occasionally commenting on the action. As Tom (Caudron) explains to the camera, pic reveals “the real and full story behind the bestselling novel that is 90% autobiographical. Except for some structural and narrative enhancements.”
Though he sees himself as a left-leaning thinking man, Tom writes for a right-wing populist rag, hoping to change the system from within. For one of the paper’s idiot-of-the-week pieces, he has to cover an integration course with his pal Jonas (Koen De Graeve), a shutterbug for the same paper. At the meeting, both are smitten with Nadia (Sana Mouziane), a beautiful Pakistani immigrant. Much to Tom’s — and Jonas’ — surprise, Nadia actually seems interested in the nerdy, bespectacled journalist.
But Tom is not ready for a careless affair. He’s about to buy a house with longtime g.f. Tinne (Sofie Van Moll). And his contumacious grandpa, Bob (Jaak Van Assche), who personifies the newspaper’s target audience, has been hospitalized and is considering euthanasia.
Helmer Verheyen and screenwriter Bram Renders juggle the two main story catalysts — Nadia and Bob — with aplomb. Tom’s character is developed as he reacts to the changes in his life, and finds he has to re-examine his ingrained convictions about love, immigrant rights and the right to die. Several times, reverse psychology is used for both character development and laughs. Some smaller subplots are not well integrated, including an unfocused side story about an angry Moroccan rapper (Achmed Akkabi).
Film actually combines the main themes of two recent films by Dutch helmer Eddy Terstal, “Simon” and “Vox Populi,” though Verheyen offers a purely Belgian twist on the subjects. By making the protag a self-doubting yet principled Everyman, pic is far less cynical about human nature and thus easier for auds of all political convictions to warm to.
As the journalist, Caudron is the movie’s biggest asset, and Verheyen knows how to use him. Van Assche finds the right mix of political and personal indignation, and keeps the grandfather from sliding into caricature. Moroccan actress Mouziane, who learned Dutch for the role, is adequate.
Herman Wolfs’ widescreen lensing of production designer Kurt Loyens’ interiors and Antwerp’s port and downtown areas is excellent, though the visuals overuse artificially enhanced colors and contrasts. Use of Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” on the soundtrack is one of the film’s quiet comic delights. Original title also refers to pic being a loose adaptation.