Film Review: ‘It’s Not the Time of My Life’

An unexpected visit from the in-laws quickly turns sour in this indie production from Magyar helmer Szabolcs Hajdu.

Erika Tankó, Orsolya Török-Illyés, Szabolcs Hajdu, Domokos Szabó, Lujza Hajdu, Zsigmond Hajdu, Imre Gelányi, Ágota Szilágyi.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5537614/

An unexpected visit from the in-laws quickly turns sour in the Magyar indie production “It’s Not the Time of My Life.” With his seventh feature, versatile Hungarian helmer Szabolcs Hajdu (“Mirage,” “Bibliotheque Pascal,” “White Palms”) orchestrates a fresh and funny chamber piece about midlife marital crises that will strike a universal chord at festivals far and wide. In addition to the highly relatable situations shot in a style of heightened naturalism and the Robert Altman-like overlapping dialogue, the drama gains further conviction from setting the action in the actual apartment lived in by the director and his wife, who, along with their real-life son, play the host family.

Late-thirtysomethings Farkas (Szabolcs Hajdu) and Eszter (Orsolya Török-Illyés, the helmer’s spouse and regular female lead) constantly bicker about the best way to parent their hyper-active, five-year-old son Bruno (Zsigmond Hajdu). He accuses her of being too permissive; she feels that he isn’t very involved. After audiences witness Bruno yelling at full-throttle in the film’s opening moments, it is easy to sympathize with both sides. Just as Eszter bitterly wonders aloud, “Why are we still together?” a knock at the door interrupts any further reckoning.

The unheralded guests are Eszter’s slightly older sister Ernella (Erika Tankó), her self-pitying husband Albert (Domokos Szabó), and their sullen, animal-loving offspring Laura (Lujza Hajdu, the real-life daughter of the helmer and his wife). After a year working on a farm in Scotland, where, Ernella confides, Albert did not get along with the locals, they are broke, homeless, and not happy about being back in Hungary. Some pithy, blackly comic dialogue nails the mixed feelings that Magyars who have lived outside their country have about their homeland.

Soon, the tight quarters of the apartment catalyze the discontent felt by all parties into recriminations, revelations and general bad behavior. Farkas reverts to his familiar pattern of making snide comments and running away from the situation as old sibling rivalries simmer once again and Albert, whom Ernella has cuckolded, takes his aggression out on their daughter. Many doors are slammed before the open ending arrives, but luckily, by then, Eszter’s more mature outlook seems to carry the day.

In a completely different strategy from his previous films, Hajdu first wrote and directed this material as a theater play in 2015, using the same adult cast. His deft film adaptation makes fine use of extreme close-ups and a roaming camera within the apartment so that it never feels stage-bound even though the action never leaves that confined space. The smooth unity of the visuals also belies the fact that Hajdu employs no fewer than 13 cinematographers, chosen from his film school students. Their creative lensing and framing (often creating additional frames within the frame) signals that a talented new generation is about to join the Hungarian film industry.

Hajdu, who belonged to a theater company in his youth, proves that he still has his acting chops as the immature husband who can’t come to terms with sharing his wife with his own child. He gets to deliver some priceless dialogue, including a backhanded compliment to his wife: “You’re so beautiful. You’re aging really nicely.” As the most sensible member of the household, Romanian-born Török-Illyés is fine as always. Tankó, who also comes from a Romanian-Hungarian family, looks and sounds like she could be Török-Illyés’ sister. Szabó, whose ties with Hajdu go back to their children’s’ theater days, is perfect as the put-upon brother-in-law. The two younger Hajdus prove themselves natural performers and their parents’ comfortable, warmly appointed apartment is an enviable piece of real estate.

Film Review: ‘It’s Not the Time of My Life’

Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (competing), July 7, 2016. Running time: 81 MIN. (Original title: “Ernelláék Farkaséknál”)

Production: (Hungary) A Filmworks Ltd, Látókép Ensemble, FocusFox Studio production. Produced by Dániel Herner, András Muhi, Ferenczy Gábor, Zsófia Muhi. Executive producers, Szabolcs Hajdu, Orsolya Török-Illyés.

Crew: Directed, written by Szabolcs Hajdu. Camera (color, HD), Csaba Bántó, Flóra Chilton, Dávid Gajdics, Betti Hejüsz, Márton Kisteleki, Ákos K. Kovács, Péter Miskolczi, Péter Pásztor, Tamás Simon, Márk Szalai, Gábor Szilágyi, Gergely Tímár, Levente Tóth; editor, Szilvia Papp; sound, Bálint Zándoki.

With: Erika Tankó, Orsolya Török-Illyés, Szabolcs Hajdu, Domokos Szabó, Lujza Hajdu, Zsigmond Hajdu, Imre Gelányi, Ágota Szilágyi.

More Film

  • A Star Is Born

    'A Star Is Born' Soundtrack Surpasses Global Sales of 6 Million

    Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s onscreen chemistry continues to be felt on the official soundtrack to “A Star is Born,” which just surpassed 6 million albums sold globally and has been certified double platinum in the U.S. Released by Interscope Records in 2018, the album debuted atop the charts and remains the highest-selling album of [...]

  • monty-python-are-fifty-in-2019

    Previously Unreleased Monty Python Audio to Get Airing for Troupe's 50th Anniversary

    Michael Palin will exec-produce series of radio specials containing never-before-released audio from Monty Python as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the iconic comedy troupe. They will play on the BBC in the U.K. and then go out in the U.S. Palin and his fellow Pythons – John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Huayi Brothers' Stock Falls 8% After 'The Eight Hundred' Cancellation

    Huayi Brothers’ stock fell by more than 8% on Wednesday, the day after the veteran Chinese studio announced that its new war epic, “The Eight Hundred,” will not hit Chinese theaters as scheduled next week. Shares dropped from RMB5.48 to RMB5.02 overnight after Huayi said Tuesday that its summer blockbuster’s theatrical debut would be indefinitely [...]

  • Chinese actor Xu Zheng holds his

    Golden Horse Organizers Set Clashing Date With China's Golden Rooster Awards

    The prestigious Golden Horse Awards announced Wednesday that it will hold its annual ceremony in Taiwan on the same day this year as China’s Communist-backed Golden Rooster Awards – which virtually assures that no major mainland Chinese talent will attend the event known as Asia’s Oscars on November 23. Hong Kong director Johnnie To will [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival Placeholder Berlinale

    Key Berlin Film Festival Venue Set to Close - or Is It?

    The announcement that German exhibitor CineStar would close its multiplex at Berlin’s famed Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz has thrown the cinema’s participation as a key venue for the Berlin Film Festival into doubt. Whether it actually shutters, however, remains to be seen. British-based Vue International is awaiting approval from German antitrust officials on its [...]

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content