Fools (2022) Karlovy Vary Film Festival 2022

July 4th, 2022
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Tomasz Wasilewski | Cast: Dorota Kolak, Łukasz Simlat, Katarzyna Herman, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Tomasz Tyndyk | Poland Drama, 107′

In his fourth feature, another unsettling domestic drama, Tomasz Wasilewski looks at the negative impacts of close family ties in a love story about a couple in modern Poland.

Polish filmmaker Wasilewski is fascinated by female centric stories: his debut In A Bedroom looked at sex and survival for a woman in mid-life crisis. In Floating Skyscrapers a woman struggles to cope with her partner’s gay sexual awakening; and United States of Love explores sexual freedom for four different women after the fall of the Soviet Union in Poland.

Just when Tomek (Simlat) thought he had found peace and happiness with his much older partner Marlena (Kolak), a doctor, she decides to take home her paraplegic adult son who has a life-limiting condition requiring full time care from both Tomek and herself. And not for the first time. As if they’d had a new baby without all the joy that entails, this puts enormous pressure on the middle-aged couple and their relationship, shifting the focus from their contented lives together to the fraught and often physically gruelling task of looking after a fully grown man who requires constant bathing and changing. Unlike Marlena, Tomek has no buffering feelings of love or compassion to bond him to this ‘interloper’.

The remote and often windswept terrain of Poland’s Baltic coast provides a brilliant background echoing the couple’s turbulent existence, Wasilweski and his DoP Oleg Mutu concentrating on compelling visual storytelling and stylisation in a detached narrative form, pared down dialogue and strong but always subtle performances from Kulak and Simlat illustrating the protagonists’ inner struggle.

Marlena comes across as a conscientious but not particularly appealing character, her own needs and those of Tomek totally subsumed by her son’s demanding condition and showing how easily even a strong relationship can be put to the test, and found wanting. MT


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