Six-year-old Stefek challenges fate. He believes that the chain of events he sets in motion will help him get closer to his father who abandoned his mother. His sister Elka, 17, helps him learn how to “bribe” fate with small scarifices. Tricks and coincidences eventually bring the father to the mother’s doorstep, but things go wrong. In despair Stefek tries his good luck with the most risky of his tricks. (mubi)
Philip French (2009)
This wistful, whimsical slice of provincial life is far removed from the glory days of the Polish cinema that challenged the authoritarian system from the 50s to the 80s, as it puts a mildly affirmative face on the current troubled scene. It covers a few hot summer days in a dull, rundown town where 10-year-old Stefek believes that a brown-suited, briefcase-carrying commuter who changes trains every day at the local station is his father who a decade earlier deserted his family, and he indulges in various strategies, both social and magical, to bring him home.
Stefek’s obsession makes life difficult for his mother (who runs a grocery shop) and his lovely 17-year-old sister, who’s washing dishes in a cafe while learning Italian to try for a job with an Italian company, the only promising source of employment in this moribund town.
This is a sad, muted, delicately observed film with strong naturalistic performances. Yet again, an eastern European asks the bitter question: did we go through all that for this?