The first foray into drama for Latvian documaker Juris Poskus, slacker story “Monotony” happily proves more engaging than its title suggests. Tale tracks a young Latvian femme who ditches the sticks for big-city life, only to discover fresh varieties of boredom. Writer-helmer Poskus skillfully evokes the numbed ennui of youth, especially from new EU member countries in Central Europe, for whom the grass is always greener further west. But script’s low-key drone will limit pic’s journeys to the fest circuit.
Life for attractive twentysomething Ilze (legit actress Iveta Pole) in her unnamed hometown consists largely of drudge work as a fisherwoman and hanging out with her lumpish mechanic b.f., Ojars (Varis Pinis). Finding a newspaper ad calling for hopefuls to audition for supporting parts in a film called “Monotony” is all it takes to lure Ilze to Riga, the capital.
Given her woefully bad singing at the audition (a droll sequence that recalls the misbegotten musical efforts of the subjects in Poskus’ docu “But the Hour Is Near”), Ilze unsurprisingly fails to land a part. Still, her cousin Linda (Madara Melberga) lets her have a room in her scruffy apartment while Ilze looks for a job.
Before long, Ojars comes to town as well, with no job prospects in sight but big boasts about going to Ireland to get work. Assorted other characters drift in and out of the action, including hipster Arcibalds (Artuss Kaimins), with whom Ilze has a one-night stand, and Ojars’ gormless buddyBogdans (Andis Strods), whose idea of fun is a staring contest.
Pic ends on an amusingly cynical note, but there’s a scrappiness to the script that could stem from the pic having been allegedly developed through improvisation. While it’s never boring to watch, “Monotony” is very much about people wasting time and doing next to nothing, be it getting drunk and sledding in a snowy park or just hanging out in dingy rooms.
There’s a whiff at times of early Jim Jarmusch in this study of lassitude, but pic lacks Jarmusch’s distinctive use of music (all tunes heard here are source music only). Dogma 95 movies seem to be another touchstone for Poskus, given the digital, low-tech lensing, but “Monotony” has none of the outre melodrama in so many Dogma productions.
Perfs are in the same laconic key as the filmmaking. Of the ensemble, the consistently watchable Pole, whose angular face frequently blooms into beauty, and the often funny Pinis are standouts. Tech package is adequate, apart from tinny sound recording on version caught.