×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Mallory’

Time-lapse docu innovator Helena Trestikova’s latest shows optimistic end to Czech woman's homelessness and drug addiction.

“No one gives a rat’s a— about me,” bemoans Mallory, a recovered drug addict faced with the triple-threat challenges of homelessness, unemployment and depression in Helena Trestikova’s simply titled “Mallory.” The movie proves her wrong, of course. Those familiar with Trestikova’s oeuvre know the respected (yet still under-recognized) Czech helmer invests years — nay, decades — in her subjects, chronicling the transformation of real people over time. Clearly, Trestikova does care about Mallory, and audiences will, too, after watching this condensed account of 13 years in the life of an otherwise-unsung hero, captured via the director’s unique “time collection” approach.

Trestikova graduated from Prague’s FAMU film school 10 years after “Seven Up!” director Michael Apted, and she adopts a similar time-lapse style to her work. Instead of checking in at regular intervals, however, Trestikova maintained ongoing contact with those she documented, often missing the most eventful moments in their lives, yet still managing to create a complete and well-rounded portrait through the sheer depth and duration of her coverage.

Mallory’s case serves as an optimistic counterbalance to the director’s 2010 feature “Katka,” which witnessed a heroin junkie’s ongoing battle with addiction over the course of 14 years. Meanwhile, “Mallory” begins with a pregnant drug user vowing to kick the habit in order to be a better mother, and it depicts the determined woman’s monumental fight to stay clean — which she does, against incredible odds. “I loved heroin as carnally as a woman loves a man,” she confesses early on, and later, we see the cravings all but consuming her, but Mallory prevails.

This Czech woman’s story resonates not only in her native country, but especially at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival, where the pic won top documentary honors, given fest president (and local acting legend) Jiri Bartoska’s unique and entirely coincidental role as Mallory’s real-life guardian angel. In a story described via voiceover and abstractly reconstructed in the film (a rare breach of verite rules, still not as troubling as a faux-subjective sequence that accompanies a potentially suicidal voice message later), Mallory was crossing Prague’s scenic Charles Bridge one night, practically at rock bottom, when Bartoska gave her 2,000 Koruna (about $80) and a life-changing pep talk.

Trestikova opens with footage of Mallory shot in 2002, appearing in what could have been one of many potential audition interviews: a lean and somewhat desperate-looking young woman, whose rebellious past and heavy-metal punk attitude are clearly chastened by imminent motherhood. Oddly, the helmer (whose working method demands that she divide her time between subjects, any number of whom might support their own films one day) skips the next eight years of Mallory’s tough-luck life, rejoining her under completely transformed circumstances.

How the helmer caught up with Mallory, much less recognized her, might have been an interesting detail to include, considering that the down-and-out ex-junkie appears to have aged several decades between 2002 and 2010. Though clean, she was living out of her drug-addicted boyfriend’s beat-up red Peugeot, on the brink of losing her son, Krystof, to state care. From that point forward, Trestikova checks in with Mallory roughly every three months. Shooting casually on lowish-resolution video, she tags along to visit Krystof in an asylum, or more depressing still, into the bowels of the Czech social welfare system — the arcane bureaucratic labyrinth that once inspired Kafka feels comically inept all these years later — where flats are offered once a year via Christmas lottery.

As in Trestikova’s other work, the helmer’s sincere interest in her subject whittles away whatever prejudice audiences might have toward addicts, thieves, outcasts and other so-called “losers.” Instead, we come away from her films sensitive to the fact that had fate’s whims wafted another way, we could conceivably find ourselves in her subjects’ shoes. Of course, “Mallory” is no different, illustrating not just the effects of homelessness, but also addiction, interpersonal codependency and, in a troubling third-act twist, physical abuse at the hands of a new lover.

If not necessarily as gripping or personal as her previous longer-term portraits (in “Rene,” the title character destroyed the invisible barrier with his director by actually stealing her camera to shoot porn films), the film offers hope, at least. The pic ends with a tragic loss and astounding recovery as Mallory studies to become a social worker, completing the circle of empathy and support the film itself represents.

Film Review: 'Mallory'

Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 6, 2015. Running time: 101 MIN.  

Production: (Documentary – Czech Republic) An Aerofilms release of a Negativ production, in co-production with Czech Television, Film Centre, with support from State Cinematography Fund of Czech Republic, in cooperation with HBO Europe. (International sales: Negativ, Prague.) Produced by Katerina Cerna, Pavel Strnad. Co-producers, Helena Uldrichova, Ivana Pauerova.

Crew: Directed, written by Helena Trestikova. Camera (DV/HD), Miroslav Soucek, Vlastimil Hamernik, Robert Novak, David Cysaf, Jiri Chod, Jakub Hejna; editor, Jakub Hejna; music, Tadeas Vercak; sound designer, Richard Muller, Jan Gogola, Michael Trestik.

More Film

  • Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple

    Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Berlin-based sales agent Picture Tree Intl. has sold Steven Wouterlood’s coming-of-age film “My Extraordinary Summer with Tess,” which received a Special Mention from the jury of Berlin Film Festival’s Generation KPlus section, to distributors in several territories. Among the buyers are Les Films Du Preau in France, Proview Entertainment in Taiwan, Angel Films in Denmark, [...]

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. More Reviews Sundance Film [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. More Reviews Sundance [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content