A guy splits with his girl on New Year’s Eve and searches for the ex he thinks he still loves in Paul Negoescu’s drawn-out feature debut, “A Month in Thailand.” Geared to the Y Generation’s perceived lack of focus, this story of an indecisive young man afraid of commitment is hardly exclusive to the Internet age, or Romania. An ear for true-to-life words doesn’t mean they’re delivered with the kind of fluid messiness of real speech, and “Month” is likely to get lost in the swamp of respectably average debuts as its director goes on to hone his craft.It’s Dec. 31, the nine-month anniversary for Radu (Andrei Mateiu) and Adina (Ioana Anastasia Anton), though Radu doesn’t remember (typical guy behavior) and Adina is itching to move into his place (typical girl behavior). She’s clingy, he’s distant; she thinks they’re in a great relationship, he doesn’t think much at all. While out for supplies at the supermarket, he believes he spots someone (unseen oncamera), and his whole demeanor changes. Like most young couples, they join friends at a nightclub for New Year’s celebrations, where Radu abruptly tells Adina that there’s no point in staying together, since there isn’t enough between them. She’s stunned and storms off, while he spends the rest of the evening vacillating between going home or club-hopping with friends. He’s been trying to reach his ex Nadia (Sinziana Nicola), but she’s not responding; finally he sees her at a bar, where he inarticulately tells her he should never have dumped her. The action takes place over the course of 24 hours, giving “Thailand” a boundary, but one without much going on inside (the title refers to a trip Radu is planning). Characters are conceived as a critique of Romania’s burgeoning twentysomething Europudding middle class, yet the script conjures up flat figures, and then refuses to adopt a viewpoint. Obviously Radu isn’t a great catch, but is Adina meant to be annoying, and is Nadia meant to have no self-respect? Since the women’s names are anagrams, are auds supposed to think they’re flip sides of the same person? Ultimately the long night reveals nothing substantive about these figures or society at large — at least nothing apart from a general shallowness, and that’s hardly a groundbreaking observation. Negoescu directs the thesps to speak their lines in clean segments that tend to rob the conversations of an emotional charge, so that despite a resemblance in subject matter to mumblecore, the pic lacks the sloppy veracity that would make it believable. Andrei Butica’s supple lensing is problem-free, and doesn’t lose anyone in the dimmed bowels of dance clubs and latenight streets. The frequent shift in watering holes is likely meant to reflect a generational lack of focus, but such behavior predates Diamond Jim Brady. Given the ubiquity of the Platter’s cover of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” it would have made a greater impact had Negoescu chosen a different version.
A Hi Film Prods., Abis Studio production, with the participation of HBO Romania. (International sales: MPM Film, Paris.) Produced by Ada Solomon. Co-producer, Gabi Antal. Executive producer, Smaranda Sterian. Directed by Paul Negoescu. Screenplay, Negoescu, Vlad Trandafir.
Camera (color, HD), Andrei Butica; editor, Alexandru Radu; production designer, Iulia Negoescu Fulicea; costume designer, Ciresica Cuciuc; sound, Filip Muresan, Vlad Voinescu; casting, Simona Ghita. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Critics' Week), Sept. 3, 2012. Running time: 84 MIN.
Andrei Mateiu, Ioana Anastasia Anton, Sinziana Nicola, Tudor Aaron Istodor, Raluca Aprodu, Victoria Raileanu, Bogdan Cotlet, Ionut Grama, Sabina Posea, Simona Ghita, Stefan Munteanu, Mircea Rusu, Maria Ploae, Adriana Schiopu, Eszter Tompa, Diana Bogdan, Raluca Carpinici, Cristina Gavrus.