Anostalgic look back at an adolescent boy’s summer of first love, “Helimadoe” has the look and feel of a quality cable or PBS show. A gentler take on the “Belle Epoque” theme, but without the Oscar winner’s originality or verve, “Helimadoe” is a pleasant and undemanding effort by vet helmer Jaromil Jires.
The puzzle of a title derives from the names of a country doctor’s (Josef Somr) daughters. Emil (Jakub Marek), a 15-year-old with the face and red curly hair of a cherub, spends a summer following the doctor and his daughters on their rounds, as a sort of apprenticeship in spite of his mother’s disapproval. Her haughty beau stands in contrast to the five daughters, whose spontaneity and warmth immediately enfold Emil. Each of the five reacts to Emil differently, nurturing or flirting with him. The youngest, Ema (Jana Konecna), jealously watches Emil’s growing infatuation with sexy Dora (Lucie Zednickova).
The coquetry continues harmlessly until a traveling magician and his dying wife stop in the sleepy town. While the doctor is unable to save the wife, Dora begins an affair with the magician, using the lovesick Emil as her go-between. When she runs off with the magician, Emil is all too ready to leave the town with his parents and turn his back on Ema’s affection.
The sentimental reminiscence of youthful folly is well served by pic’s warmly muted colors and the tender, all-the-time-in-the-world pace of the film. The movie’s production values are fine, and Jires captures an atmosphere found in Czech studio films of an earlier era, a world touched by warmth, graciousness and a lust for life.
Although “Helimadoe” doesn’t burn itself into the memory, it should find an appreciative audience among nostalgic viewers and family auds.