Afilm as technically well made as “Better Than Escape” deserves a better script. This 1991 Yugoslav pic about a talented actor whose life crumbles due to alcoholism verges on melodrama yet lacks the emotional punch that would make it a good weepie.
Pic may have some historical value in highlighting ethnic differences between Serbs and Americans. An American girl of Serbian origin (the adequate Claire Backman) falls for an ambitious young actor (clean-cut hunk Zarko Lausevic) during a vacation in Belgrade. Thanks to her pidgin Serbo-Croatian, much of the dialogue between the two is in English.
Though in general “Escape” contains far too little dramatic conflict, the couple does have a few cultural clashes. She wants to work, he wants her to stay home with the baby. He drinks too much of the local liquor; she wants him to stop.
Lausevic becomes rich and famous from a TV series, while he’s esteemed for his brilliant theatrical work. But when the government shuts down a controversial play, he turns to the bottle again and is involved in a fatal car accident. He goes to jail, while his coldhearted wife leaves him and takes their son back to the States.
Though a maudlin conclusion leaves a faint ray of hope, viewers may decide it was better to escape than get this far.