Finding a sweet spot between art film and mass entertainment, quirky relationship comedy “The Woman With a Broken Nose,” from Serbian helmer-writer Srdjan Koljevic (“Red Colored Gray Truck”), is a pacey ensembler in which several privately grieving people cross paths in contempo Belgrade. Notable for a lightness of touch reminiscent of “Love and Other Crimes” (which Koljevic co-wrote), an appealing cast of young and middle-aged players, and attractive production design, this crowdpleaser could find crossover success in its upcoming domestic release. Further fest travel is assured, with select Euro arthouse play a possibility.
Although never overstated, the underlying theme here is the need to move on from painful losses and reopen oneself to life and love, a notion that should resonate in Serbia. Koljevic cleverly uses a traffic jam on Branko’s bridge (which connects the city center to New Belgrade) as a metaphor for the way his literally and figuratively scarred characters are stuck in their current lives.
Perhaps the film’s most important location, the bridge is where emotionally closed-off cabbie Gavrilo (Nebojsa Glogovac) an immigrant from rural Bosnia, picks up the title character (Nada Sargin) and her adorable baby girl, only to watch the woman jump from the bridge into the whirling Sava River below a few minutes later, leaving her infant in his cab. Also witnessing the plunge are high school teacher Anica (Anica Dobra), still mourning her young son, who was killed in a hit-and-run, and pharmacist Biljana (Branka Katic), who has never gotten over the death of her fiance.
Smoothly juggling multiple plot strands, the narrative cuts among Gavrilo as he bonds with the baby with the help of fellow Bosnian Jadranka (Jasna Zalica), a prostitute with a heart of gold; Anica, who shows a mysterious antipathy to adoring pupil Marko (Nikola Rakocevic); and Biljana, who has a charged re-encounter with her fiance’s younger brother, Stefan (Vuk Kostic). One of the pic’s most pleasing aspects is the tenderness with which it depicts all its tough yet vulnerable characters.
The strong ensemble cast, which also includes Croatia-born, Germany-based Stipe Erceg as the baby’s glowering father, showcases the verbal and visual wit in Koljevic’s tight script to prime advantage.
Tech credits are polished, with “Truck” d.p. Goran Volarevic providing fluid lensing. Marko Glusac’s deft editing and Mario Schneider’s wry score deserve special mention, while the colorful costuming and production design provide welcome relief to the dreariness of some of the Belgrade exteriors.
Pic nabbed five awards, including best picture and the audience prize, at the Serbian national fest in Novy Sad in June.