Film Review: ‘Cure — The Life of Another’

A handsomely lensed, well-acted drama from Swiss helmer Andrea Staka.

Sylvie Marinkovic, Lucia Radulovic, Marija Skaricic, Mirjana Karanovic, Leon Lucev, Franjo Dijak, Maja Zeco. (Croatian, Swiss-German dialogue)

Andrea Staka’s long-awaited follow-up to her award-winning 2006 drama, “Fraulein,” is similarly concerned with issues of displacement and belonging, though in “Cure — The Life of Another,” she pairs these feelings with adolescent uncertainty. Handsomely lensed and well acted, the film tells of a Swiss-raised Croatian teen relocated to Dubrovnik shortly after the siege, who blurs the boundaries between her life and that of her dead friend. Hallucinatory elements of the “Black Swan” variety crop up along with doppelganger motifs, contributing to an overall sensation that the pic’s underdeveloped side characters are more intriguing than the storyline. A respectable fest life is likely.

After her parents’ divorce, Linda (Sylvie Marinkovic) moves with her Croatian doctor father, Nino (Leon Lucev), from the coddled security of Switzerland to post-siege Dubrovnik in 1993. It’s not an easy shift, and Linda feels fortunate to have a friend in Eta (Lucia Radulovic), a tough-acting classmate who knows all the angles. Worldly-wise Eta grew up faster than Linda, and she enjoys feeling more mature than her less experienced peer.

On a hot summer day, the two climb to the forests above the city, unfazed by warnings of leftover mines. Eta goads Linda into telling her about nonexistent sexual experiences; Linda kisses her, leading Eta to taunt her friend for being a virgin. Uncertain of her feelings, Linda pushes Eta, who tumbles off the precipice, her lifeless body broken on the rocks below.

Linda is at a loss what to do. She goes to Eta’s home, where her dead pal’s mother, Marija (Marija Skaricic), and grandmother (Mirjana Karanovic) are typical of the fragmented, matriarchal families in the area, nursing psychological wounds in the vacuum left by husbands and fathers killed during the war. Eta’s death widens that chasm even more, so Linda takes her place, to the point where the grandmother behaves as if Linda really is her grandchild, and Marija’s inexpressible feelings of rage, grief and yearning manifest themselves in unexpected ways.

From the moment of Eta’s death, Linda imagines her friend’s ghost berating her, especially as Linda assumes more and more of Eta’s life, including a hesitant relationship with the dead girl’s older b.f., Ivo (Franjo Dijak), a weary, cool ex-soldier who toys with the young woman. The script offers glimpses of depth with all these characters, yet becomes subsumed by the less interesting doppelganger element, and scenes of an imagined Eta provoking Linda carries an unwelcome whiff of teen ghost movies.

Far more intriguing are the ideas beneath the surface, such as comparisons between Linda’s male-centric family and Eta’s female-centric one; also, Marija’s complex character cries out for more scenes. “Cure” is Croatian for “girls” or “brats,” and the deliberately ambiguous title demands that audiences question its meaning — is there a cure? Cure for what, exactly? The pic is strongest at conveying the confused thoughts and desires of a teen transplanted to poisoned territory, but the larger issues it strives to capture often escape its grasp.

Performances are another strong suit: Newcomer Marinkovic is a preternatural beauty whose physical maturity, appropriately, thinly masks Linda’s adolescent confusion. Frequent shots of her against bare walls heighten the sense of insecurity and loneliness. Karanovic and Skaricic, both featured in “Fraulein,” hint at complexities only sketchily written into the script.

Visuals by Martin Gschlacht, Jessica Hausner’s regular d.p., meaningfully play off contrasts between sunny exteriors — Dubrovnik’s beauty invariably made outsiders question how war could come to such an idyllic spot — and darkened rooms whose inhabitants are cast in an inescapable gloom. The often intrusive soundscape is intermittently effective, at times pushing the supernatural element too forcefully.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Cure — The Life of Another'

Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 10, 2014. (Also in Sarajevo Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 83 MIN. (Original titles: “Cure — Das Leben einer Anderen,” “Cure — La vie d'une autre”)

Production: (Switzerland-Croatia-Bosnia-Herzegovina) A Pathe Films (in Switzerland)/Blitz Film & Video (in Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina/Serbia) release of an Okofilm, Ziva Produkcija, Deblokada, SRF/SRG/SSR, ZDF production, in cooperation with Arte. Produced by Thomas Imbach, Andrea Staka. Co-producers, Damir Ibrahimovic, Leon Lucev, Jasmila Zbanic.

Crew: Directed by Andrea Staka. Screenplay, Staka, Thomas Imbach, Marie Kreutzer. Camera (color), Martin Gschlacht; editor, Tom La Belle; music, Milica Paranosic; production designer, Su Erdt; costume designer, Linda Harper; sound (5.1 surround), Peter Braeker, Predrag Doder Doco; line producer, Bruno Wagner; assistant director, Lisa Blatter; casting, Lisa Olah.

With: Sylvie Marinkovic, Lucia Radulovic, Marija Skaricic, Mirjana Karanovic, Leon Lucev, Franjo Dijak, Maja Zeco. (Croatian, Swiss-German dialogue)

More Film

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

  • Running Against the Wind

    Young Africans' Dreams Are Focus of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda Oscar Picks

    Films about young Africans trying to fulfill their dreams in the face of war, poverty, tradition and other forms of adversity have been submitted for Oscar consideration by three East African nations. The selections by Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to compete in the international feature film category reflect the relative youth of filmmaking in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content