KVIFF FILM REVIEW: Vladimir Michalek’s ‘Of Parents and Children’

of parents x650By Ray Bennett

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic – An ageing and cantankerous father and his devoted but conflicted son chat, argue, drink, reminisce and rehash old differences while strolling through Prague in Czech director Vladimir Michalek’s rewarding drama “Of Parents and Children.”

Paced leisurely but conveying rich characterizations with a contrasting subplot involving the younger man’s girlfriend and a son he never knew, the film will be well received in art houses and on the festival circuit.

Josef Somr, as the dad, and David Novotny, as the son, work considerable magic as they banter and tease each other on the day they spend together every three weeks. Mum died many years ago after taking the boy and marrying a Bolshevik numbskull during Czechoslovakia’s Soviet domination.

There are still secrets to be shared about what happened, though, as forgotten resentments resurface while the two of them wander through the streets and parks of Prague. Somr can switch quickly from being stern to openly affectionate while Novotny’s tough-guy looks mask a sympathetic vulnerability.

The womanizing son and the lonely father share tall tales about fatal women and nasty ailments that they know will spark a reaction in the other. Finally, the son reveals that an old girlfriend has informed him that he fathered a now-grown boy and while he frets over being a father, the old man contemplates being the grandfather he never expected to be.

Meanwhile, the younger man’s current girlfriend is visited by the newly discovered offspring and since he resembles her lover closely only being 20 years younger, their meeting becomes increasingly complex.

Based on a novel by Emil Hakl, the film is necessarily episodic but thanks to sturdy filmmaking, some very funny moments and fine performances, there is a growing attachment to the characters and being with them feels like time well spent.

Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival; Cast: Josef Somr, David Novotny, Mariana Kroftova, Lubos Kostelny; Director: Vladimir Michalek. Screenwriters: Vladimir Michalek, Emil Hakl, Jiri Krizan; Director of photography: Martin Strba; Production designer: Martin Vackar; Music: Michal Lorenc; Editor: Jiri Brozek; Producers: Michael Smrek, Jan Dobrovsky; Production: Open Field Pictures. Sales agent: AQS; No MPAA rating, running time 112 mins.

This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.

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