Available on Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray November 2017
AKA Tiszta szívvel (With a Pure Heart)
What’s in a title? Well in this case not so much, as the Hungarian translation suggests. Here the original name is pretty vague and offers some sense of intrigue, and as you might expect the version offered to us by English speaking distributors is trying to sell schlock to the international market. While there is a certain sense of dark humour to this story of two disabled teenagers and their dealings with a wheelchair bound assassin, this is more of a human drama than just another crime story about shady Eastern European gangsters. It may not even be about them at all. As the story unfolds we look into themes of tragic romance, rejected children, and attempts to create art during difficult times. How well all of these ideas come together as an overall narrative is not always successful, but it’s still an interesting and likeable project overall.
Zolika (Zoltán Fenyvesi) is a troubled teenager with a lot on his plate. Not only does he have a severe back problem crushing his body, but his mother is divorced and his father has left to start a new family in Germany. Since she works in athletics and his dad is absent, there’s a dark cloud of rejection hanging over things. He spends much of his time at a care home with his room mate Barba (Ádám Fekete) who is able to walk but struggles with a different kind of disorder which makes his physical actions very difficult. In the face of adversity they plan to publish a comic book to deal with some of these issues, and at the same time make something of themselves creatively at an upcoming convention competition. However they soon meet with ex-con Rupaszov (Szabolcs Thuróczy) and things begin to become more fantastic.
It’s sign posted pretty much straight away, but there may be more going on here than it first appears. Whether it’s Rupaszov’s surreal prison release echoing their life at the home or his convenient appearance to offer them a way to make money through his shady deals with a Serbian crime boss, there are plenty of hints that it’s not all based in reality. However things quickly push forward as the trio become friends, drinking in bars and meeting in physiotherapy sessions. Zolika, rejecting his wealthy father’s money for a life saving surgery decides that aiding this new parental figure will be a way to help himself. Soon he becomes an accessory to some rather fatal encounters with local gangs, with Barba acting as their getaway driver.
There’s a lot of effective human drama as Zolita battles with feelings of self doubt and helplessness, and it becomes apparent that his new acquaintance Rupaszov has a lot of issues of his own. Not only has he lost his old job as a firefighter after an accident, but he has lost his old flame (Lídia Danis) to another man after spending 3 years away in jail. On top of this his boss, while initially happy to have a hit man that nobody would suspect, has become aware of his accomplices and wants them out of the way. In terms of your typical underworld shoot outs and double crosses, it offers a few different sequences along the way. However there are a lot of tonal shifts throughout which don’t mesh that well together.
The story structure itself is pretty interesting, but the inevitable reveals mean a lot of the suspense is drained away. The clues to how the therapy story and the all the killings fit together is pretty obvious quite early on, and it means that other aspects of the drama lack weight and impact. It doesn’t veer into anything too outlandish, and the humour usually subtle and character based such as Barba and his obsession with using deodorant sprays. The exploration of young people dealing with real life problems is pretty engaging nonetheless, and this is helped by the film makers who have an understanding of the story elements and have chosen to cast actors who deal with disability off screen. Not everything clicks into place and some of the grittier moments can be jarring against the broader coming of age plot, but it still manages to be a fairly sympathetic tale which offers a unique way of approaching the subject matter.