Beauty In Trouble

2006, Movie, NR, 110 mins

Review

BEAUTY IN TROUBLE | KRASKA V NESNAZICH
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Inspired by Robert Graves' deeply cynical poem, Jan Hrebejk and Petr Jarchovsky's story of a woman whose future hinges on her relationships with two very different men. Marcela Cmolikova (Ana Geislerova) got pregnant as a teenager and left home because her mother and stepfather, Zdena (Jana Brejchova) and Risa (Jiri Schmitzer), urged her to have an abortion. She married mechanic Jarda (Roman Luknar), who adopted her daughter, Lucina (Michaela Mrvikova), now 15, and fathered her seven-year-old son, Kuba (Adam Misik). Powerful sexual chemistry is the glue that holds their marriage together, but Marcela feels increasing trapped in the aftermath of a flood that damaged their uninsured home, destroyed most of their possessions and is compromising Kuba's health – mold exacerbates his asthma. Jarda is increasingly sullen, crude and dismissive of Marcela's concerns – she doesn't want her children stigmatized by having a thief for a father, he only cares that stealing cares is more lucrative than fixing them. After one fight too many, Marcela moves back in with her mother. The cramped quarters put a strain on Zdena's marriage; the manipulative Risa, who lives on disability and is always home, picks fights with Marcela, leers at Lucina and plays mind games with Kuba, always while Zdena is away. Then Jarda gets arrested and a chance encounter with the stolen car's owner – expatriate Evzen Benes (Josef Abrham), a widower who returned to Prague to sell his family's house – opens a world of possibilities for Marcela. An attractive widower, Evzen is so fundamentally decent that he offers to get Jarda a good lawyer and refuses to evict the family who've been squatting in the Benes home for years. That he's old enough to be Marcela's father and doesn't excite her the way Jarda does is offset by the fact that she enjoys his company, lives in a Tuscan villa attached to a successful vineyard, likes children and isn't afraid of the emotional baggage that inevitably comes with a 32-year-old mother. It's clear to everyone, including Marcela, that divorcing Jarda and marrying Evzen would be a mature decision -- perhaps the first of her life.

Director Hrebejk and screenwriter Jarchovsky's film is a subtle, unsparing portrait of families whose fragile dynamics fray under pressure. Its strength lies in the complexity with which the characters are written – there's more to everyone than first meets the eye, even such apparently one-note monsters as Risa and Jarda's fanatically religious mother (Emilia Vasaryova) – and the subtlety with which their thorny relationships are revealed. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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