(Latvian and Dutch dialogue)
This unusual Euro road movie never quite lives up to its intriguing premise but nevertheless reps a promising debut for director Paula van der Oest. Eurotube exposure is indicated.
Pic opens in Riga, Latvia, in 1992. Eight-year-old Elvis (Arys Adamson) has lost the power of speech as a result of an unspecified trauma; he is kept in a hospital and his troubled father, Yuris (Janis Reinis), can’t get him released even though he bribes the doctor in charge. The desperate Yuris breaks into the hospital at night and takes Elvis away, determined to flee the country and start a new life in the West.
In their dilapidated Lada auto, the two head for Holland, where, 30 years earlier, Yuris had a Dutch pen pal. Marie wrote him affectionate, naive letters about her dream of becoming a ballerina, letters that changed as she got older, lost her dreams and became involved in romantic relationships. Yuris has lost touch with her, but he’s certain he can track her down; after all, Holland isn’t such a large country. And he speaks a little Dutch, learned from a Dutch grandparent.
Along the way, father and son lose everything money, car, belongings but they eventually track down Marie (Geert de Jong), who is now a disappointed middle-aged woman with a surly, combative teenage daughter.
Van der Oest handles individual scenes well, as father and son, with their limited knowledge of the language, get into all manner of scrapes along the way and have to crash a wedding reception to get some food. An encounter with a predatory businesswoman who takes a shine to Yuris strikes the first false note, however, and thereafter the contrivances increase.
Reinis gives a decent performance as the disenchanted protagonist, with young Adamson expressively conveying a range of emotions as Elvis. The Dutch players all acquit themselves well.
The naive beauty of Marie’s teenage letters is sharply contrasted with the bitter woman she has become. Final impression, however, is of a slight and inconclusive exercise.
Technical credits are all slick.