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Sundance Film Review: ‘The Disobedient’

Two petulant brats go on a singularly unrewarding road trip across the Serbian countryside in Mina Djukic's debut feature.

With:

Hana Selimovic, Mladen Sovilj, Danijel Sike, Minja Subota, Marko Janic, Zarko Radic, Branka Selic, Aleksandra Pleskonjic, Dunja Tatic Raslav Sekulovic, Ivan Djordjevic.

Lyrical visuals can only do so much to sweeten the otherwise charmless, aimless road trip undertaken by two petulant brats in “The Disobedient.” Mina Djukic’s debut feature sets its adult (in age, at least) protagonists off on a bicycle odyssey across the handsome Serbian countryside. By the time their journey jerks to an abrupt halt, we’ve learned nothing about them beyond their shared propensities for (mis)behavior that is intended to be “rebellious,” but instead seems simply, tiresomely childish. Beyond fest gigs and new-director showcases, export value looks slim.

After a brief prologue establishing their childhood bond, Leni (Hana Selimovic) and Lazar (Mladen Sovilj) reunite at age 24. They attend his father’s funeral, where they both behave like bored 5-year-olds — a mode they’ll seldom break from here. She’s mad that he’s been incommunicado since going to study abroad some time ago. She’s also distressed at discovering that she’s pregnant, though she doesn’t inform him of this; nor do we find out who the father is. He’s moody because, well, why not.

Despite this initial strife, they set out the next day on their bikes with a tent (and, apparently, plenty of materials to refresh their personal wardrobe and makeup, despite being conspicuously short on luggage), headed nowhere in particular. She flirts with a passing motorcyclist who makes homemade fireworks. He seemingly sleeps with a bridesmaid at a wedding reception they crash. They’re eventually joined by a young boy (Danijel Sike) found fishing at a lake. Like the tornado that happens mostly offscreen, the leading pair’s discordant parting simply happens, with no particular import or logic attached.

Both actors make attractive camera subjects, but as that seems to be all Djukic requires of them, you can hardly fault them for failing to come up with fleshed-out characterizations. Popular local children’s TV host Minja Subota plays himself as an omniscient onscreen narrator, one whose presence is meant to underline the enterprise’s whimsicality but instead just provides a note of self-congratulation, assuming a delightfulness the movie doesn’t actually possess.

There’s nothing wrong with “The Disobedient” that an actual script couldn’t have helped, at the very least. In all other departments, it’s quite smartly turned, the dominating contribution (and pleasure) being Djorde Arambasic’s often lovely, mostly outdoor photography. Screener viewed lacked closing credits.

Sundance Film Review: 'The Disobedient'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Jan. 14, 2014. (In Sundance Film Festival — World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 106 MIN. Original title: "Neposlusni"

Production:

(Serbia) A Filmdska Kuca Kiselo Dete production. (International sales: Visit Films, Brooklyn.) Produced by Mina Djukic, Nikola Lezaic. Co-producers, Miomir Dukic, Jonas Katzenstein, Maximilian Leo.

Crew:

Directed, written by Mina Djukic. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Djorde Arambasic; editor, Ivan Vasic, Dragan von Petrovic; production designer, Nikola Bercek; costume designer, Suna Kazic; set decorators, Bosko Delic, Nenad Grcic, Mladen Capara; sound designers/re-recording mixers (Dolby 5.1), Danijel Daka Milosevic,Vladimir Zivkovic, Nenad Sciban; sound designers/re-recording mixers, Milosevic, Nikola Zivojinovic; assistant director, Gvozden Duric.

With:

Hana Selimovic, Mladen Sovilj, Danijel Sike, Minja Subota, Marko Janic, Zarko Radic, Branka Selic, Aleksandra Pleskonjic, Dunja Tatic Raslav Sekulovic, Ivan Djordjevic.

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