Polish writer/director Tomascz Wasilewski’s second feature film is a dark tragic love story that you immediately sense from the opening scenes that is doomed. ★★★★★
Although it is Poland’s first ever gay movie, it is so much more a story about the search for one’s identity and about being accepted for one’s own true self and accepting others for who they are. Essentially it’s a movie about love. Love between a girl and a boy. Between boy and a boy. Between a mother and a son, and a father and a son. It is completely heartbreaking.
Koba is a young man who has been training to be a champion swimmer for 15 years. He lives at home with his mother who makes somewhat unnatural and creepy demands on him, plus Sylwia his rather sullen girlfriend of two years. He is also in the closet and furtively seeks out brief sexual encounters with other male swimmers in the locker rooms after practice. And then one evening it all changes when one Sylwia drags him reluctantly along to an Art Opening and he meets Michel, and there is an immediate attraction between the two men.
Michel is open about his sexuality although his wealthy family, with whom he still lives, are having difficulty with accepting it. The two men surreptitiously embark on a relationship which Sylwia suspects but will do nothing about beyond being hostile to Michel. Uncharacteristically Koba falls totally for his new lover and as a consequence much to the annoyance of all, he neglects both women in his life, and his training.
When it finally reaches the point of no return and the men decide to leave the closet once and for all, Kuba is confronted by an embittered pregnant Sylwia, and the fervent demands of his mother that he abandons Michel completely and become a full-time father and husband. This is however not the only tragedy that befalls them, and makes for such a bitterly sad ending.
By using such austere and somewhat foreboding locations Wasilewski has heightened the darkness in this heavyhearted tale in a society that is still unceasingly hostile to most gay and lesbian people.
Watching here in the US where the acceptance of LGBT rights is now racing along and is reflected in the recent Supreme Court rulings somehow makes this groundbreaking film seem even more poignant and pertinent.
Recently I reviewed ‘Out Loud’ the first ever film from Lebanon that dealt with gay issues, and also ‘In The Name of’ the 2nd ever-Polish gay movie (and this one won the coveted Teddy Award for Best Feature at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year). Change is happening, and these excellent movies are both witnesses to the fact, but also more importantly, instruments of the change too.