A young boy watches his estranged parents repeat their destructive relationship patterns in the modest but moving Kazakh drama “Together With My Father.” Picking up several gongs, including director, at the Eurasia fest, contempo pic charms with its understatement and acute observations about human interaction. Some sexual references and a couple fleeting obscenities may make some adults feel uneasy, but otherwise this would fit comfortably into fests with youth sidebars.
While 8-year-old Baisal (Nurmakhambet Aitenov) lives a hardscrabble life in the Kazakhstan capital of Almaty, his only dilemma appears to be how to avoid the persistent advances of a female classmate. But as pic progresses, it’s clear the behavior of his dysfunctional parents is having an emotional impact.
Spending most of his time living with his father, Karim (Bakhytzhan Alpeisov), in a tiny single-room apartment, Baisal shares his dad’s bed, unsophisticated cooking and penchant for loneliness. Affectionate and often amusing conversations show the warmth of their relationship, but life is no barrel of monkeys. Time with dad is the kid’s refuge from the custody arrangement with his mother, which exposes him to the drunken, occasionally violent antics of her new husband.
Gently paced, episodic script, clocking in at a comfortable 80 minutes, keeps to the right side of pathos and avoids sliding into the maudlin. Though somewhat unrefined, Daniyar Salamat’s helming distantly echoes the simplicity of late Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, and, as the father becomes diminished in the son’s eyes, thematically recalls Ozu’s 1932 “I Was Born, But … ”
Actors bring a convincing depth to their performances. Aitenov’s Baisal is by turns joyous and touching, and always genuine. Similarly authentic, vet Alpeisov (from 1994’s “Story of a Young Accordionist”) delivers a personable portrait of a man whose frailties make him an imperfect but loving parent.
Lensing has an unattractive, washed-out quality; other tech credits are a tad rough.
Print caught has the cumbersome but more intriguing title “Deucing It With Father,” which emphasizes the father-son twosome.