×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Montreal Film Review: ‘Life Feels Good’

Maciej Pieprzyca’s entertaining film about a man diagnosed with cerebral palsy could generate arthouse interest.

With:

David Ogrodnik, Kamil Tkacz, Dorota Kolak, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Katarzyna Sawadzka, Anna Karczmarczyk.

Neither tearfully sentimental nor coldly scientific, “Life Feels Good,” Maciej Pieprzyca’s film about a man with cerebral palsy struggling to communicate to those around him that he is an intelligent, sentient human being, instead proves oddly entertaining. The protagonist, diagnosed as mentally retarded since childhood, delivers interior monologues that supply ironically normal counterpoint to the contorted sounds and spastic movements he makes. Brilliantly thesped by non-disabled actors playing the character as both child and grown-up, the film captures as much wonderment as frustration, and is filled with fully fleshed-out characters that defy simple categorization. Having swept the jury, audience and ecumenical prizes at the Montreal fest, this Polish feature could generate genuine arthouse interest.

Helmer-scripter Pieprzyca places the character of Mateusz squarely at his story’s center. As a boy (Kamil Tkacz), Mateusz devises a unique method of moving around the apartment, lying on his back and flailing his arms to propel himself backward, which gives him a measure of autonomy.  His happy childhood provides all kinds of education, from social instruction gained by watching neighbors from his window, to cosmic knowledge imparted by his whimsical wizard of a father (Arkadiusz Jakubik). While his mother (Dorota Kolak) wheels him around and showers him with kisses and laughter, his father fires his imagination.

As he grows up, Mateusz (his role now undertaken by David Ogrodnik) even wins a loving girlfriend, the beautiful blonde next door (Anna Karczmarczyk).  But, as with all his attempts to influence the world around him, his efforts to help her backfire: Momentarily freed of her abusive dad, she flees with Mom to parts unknown. Exit romance.

But not sex. Once his father dies and his mother becomes unable to physically tend to him, Mateusz is uprooted and placed in a home for the mentally disabled (or “morons,” as they are unkindly called), where only his undying interest in breasts keeps him sane. He devises a system to judge female caretakers by breast size, since they have little else going for them. Even more than at home, where his excitement at possibilities for communication were misread as hysteria and met with sympathetic quashing of his supposed “fits,” he is treated like a mindless carcass in the asylum.

Then Magda (Katarzyna Zawadzka), a beautiful new nurse, arrives and pays loving attention, dancing for him and waltzing with him in the wheelchair, the subjective camera turning in time to celebratory music. She even lets him touch her breasts; Mateusz feels vindicated. But comprehension does not always prove a blessing: When Magda takes him on an outing for her own neurotic needs, he understands her betrayal all too clearly.

Pieprzyca situates the central axis of his film in that gap between the emotional vegetable, seen by even the kindliest, and the smart, quite sardonic “inner Mateusz” manifested in his interior monologues and extremely expressive eyes. His erratic movements and unintelligible sounds register less as symptoms of disease than as a language that others are too unimaginative to interpret.

Visually, “Life Feels Good” falls somewhere between the overstated optics of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and the clinical/humanistic distance of “The Sessions.” Like these disability dramas, the film is based on a true story, though its happy ending yields some unexpected twists.

Montreal Film Review: 'Life Feels Good'

Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 25, 2013. Running time: 111 MIN. Original title: "Chce sie zyc"

Production:

(Poland) A Tramway Film Studio production. Produced by Wieslaw Lysakowski.

Crew:

Directed, written by Maciej Pieprzyca. Camera (color, widescreen), Pawel Dyllus; editor Krzysztof Szpetmanski; music, Bartosz Chajdecki; music supervisor, Anna Malarowska, production designer, Joanna Wojcik; sound (Dolby) Robert Czyzewicz; sound editor, Piotr Domaradzki.

With:

David Ogrodnik, Kamil Tkacz, Dorota Kolak, Arkadiusz Jakubik, Katarzyna Sawadzka, Anna Karczmarczyk.

More Film

  • Woody and Buzz Lightyear Hit the

    'Toy Story 4': Woody and Buzz Lightyear Hit the Road in New Trailer

    Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Bo Peep, and a strange new toy named Forky have returned in the new trailer for “Toy Story 4” that sends the gang out on the road. Disney unveiled the footage Tuesday with Woody telling the other toys that Forky — a craft-project-turned-toy — is the most important toy to Bonnie. He [...]

  • Warner Bros. HQ LA

    Warner Bros. CFO Kim Williams Tapped for Interim Leadership Team (EXCLUSIVE)

    Warner Bros. Entertainment is setting an interim leadership team to lead the Hollywood studio following the abrupt dismissal of CEO Kevin Tsujihara on Monday. As Variety first reported, the team will consist of Warner Bros. motion pictures group chairman Toby Emmerich and Warner Bros. television group president and CCO Peter Roth. It will also include [...]

  • Hideo Kojima Tribeca Games Festival

    Hideo Kojima to Talk 'Death Stranding' at Tribeca Film Festival

    Game designer Hideo Kojima is talking about his latest project, the action title “Death Stranding,” at the Tribeca Film Festival next month, the event’s organizers announced on Tuesday. Kojima is joined by “The Walking Dead” star Norman Reedus, who appears in the game. The pair will discuss pushing the boundaries of the video game medium [...]

  • Warner Bros.

    Help Wanted: Warner Bros.' New CEO Will Need Deep Digital Chops

    Warner Bros. Entertainment is suddenly in the market for a new CEO. The hunt is taking place at a moment when that job description is in a state of massive flux due to the corporate upheaval implemented in the past few weeks by new parent company AT&T. The stunning downfall of Kevin Tsujihara as the [...]

  • David Furnish, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taron

    'Rocketman': Paramount Previews Footage of Elton John Biopic

    “Rocketman” is ready for lift off. Paramount Pictures threw a cocktail party Monday night to preview 15 minutes of the upcoming Elton John biopic, set for release on May 31, at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, the legendary rock club where John made his U.S. debut nearly 50 years ago. More Reviews Video Game Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content