Director: Bodhan Slama
There comes a time in our 20’s when we all must come to the painful realization that instead of waiting for our lives to simply begin, we must realize that it’s already begun and it’s up to us to make the decisions that will shape the life we want. We all want happiness, of course, or something like that and in director Bodhan Slama’s perceptive import (courtesy of Film Movement) from the Czech Republic where it was not only a box office success in its homeland but chosen as the official submission to the Academy Awards, we meet three twenty-something adults all struggling to come to grips with their lives. Childhood friends Monika (Tatiana Vilhelmova), Tonik (Pavel Liska) and Dasha (Ana Geislerova) all live in the same run-down housing project near a tiny industrial area of the Czech Republic and soon we realize that each are at a very substantial crossroads in their individual paths. As we first encounter the trio, Monika is saying goodbye to her long-term boyfriend who has left his country behind to seek better opportunities in America where she hopes to be invited to join him. Until then, Monika spends her days stocking shelves at a grocery store while the beautiful, promiscuous and mentally unstable Dasha neglects her two young children and carries on an affair with a married salesman. Tonik, whom Monika’s father calls too “softhearted” for his own good moves out of his parents' home and into the old, crumbling farmhouse occupied by his aunt where he decides to restore the dwelling that’s been in his family for generations, despite the wishes of his father’s company to simply cut their losses, destroy the building and sell the land to the factory. When Dasha is institutionalized after suffering a breakdown from the dissolution of her sexual relationship, Tonik and Monika step in to care for her toddlers, moving out with them to the farmhouse in the hopes of giving the boys some semblance of a normal, happy life, as Tonik tries to hide his long-held feelings of love for his childhood friend Monika. Winner of seven Czech Lion Aawrds in 2006, Slama’s Something Like Happiness is even more impressive when one realizes that it’s only the second feature made by the writer/director and one that definitely paints a heartbreaking, funny, true and bittersweet portrait of young adults making major life decisions. Tatiana Vilhelmova who earned a Best Actress award at the San Sebastian Film Festival for her work is especially good as is Pavel Liska and their charismatic portrayals make you forgive the slightly vague and unfinished conclusion to the piece that does not offer enough closure overall. The film, which played as an official selection of numerous festivals including London and Toronto, also earned a Best Film Award at festivals in both San Sebastian and Athens. Something Like Happiness is available exclusively through Film Movement.