(director/writer: Lennert Hillege, Guido van Driel; cinematographer: Lennert Hillege; editor: Stijn Deconinck; music: Matthijs Kieboom ; cast: Dragos Bucur (Dragomir ), Susanne Wolff (Marie Wankelmut), Jan Bijvoet (Oscar Doki), Alexia Lestiboudois (Iliana), Leny Breederveld (Aunt Mela), Mark Rietman (Jos), Therese Affolter (Mother Marie), Kim Hertogs (Radka), Murth Mossel (Lucas), Aart Staart (Neighbor), Valentine Dhaenens (Hans), Martijn van der Veen (Karel), Anna Tenta (Anna),Teun Luijkx (Ferry), Sytske van der Ster (Lisa), Fow Pyng Hu (Liquor Store Worker), Urmie Plein (Police Officer), Jack Monkau (Barman); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Floor Onrust/Marieke Mols; Uncork’d Entertainment; 2019-Netherlands/Belgium-in Dutch & English with English subtitles)
“Intriguing but limited Dutch character study that turns in the second half into an action-thriller.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Dutch first-time director Lennert Hillege, a cameraman, and second-time director, a former cartoonist, Guido van Driel (“The Resurrection of a Bastard”), are co-writers and co-directors of this intriguing but limited Dutch character study that turns in the second half into an action-thriller. It chronicles the life of its troubled but tough-minded lady protagonist and asks her while she’s on a downward spiral, “Do you enjoy life even a little?”
The noted cartoonist Marie Wankelmut (Susanne Wolff, German actress), known for her graphic novel, “Porn for the Blind”, is an idler who lives alone with her dog in the Red-Light District of Amsterdam since the recent death of her mother. Her alcoholic mom once lived there with her but died from her drinking addiction, and Marie feels guilty she couldn’t help her. The German-born graphic artist has not worked for some time because she’s an alcoholic with a writer’s block, and when drunk gets caught up in the sordid club nightlife that gives her neighborhood such a sleazy reputation. We observe her getting into frequent unnecessary conflicts when bar hopping and drunk.
The atmospheric film follows the vulnerable and comical Marie as she drunkenly stumbles through the Red-Light District, in the film’s first part, as the catchy photography catches the neon lights of the seedy sex district, the filthy streets, and all the faceless people (lots of tourists) searching for some sort of entertainment. In the second part it turns into an action-thriller, with pulsating action and inexplicably a seemingly different and stronger main character emerges.
When in need of booze but having no money, she one night trades her red shoes for a bottle her pimp neighbor, the evil Dragomir (Dragos Bucur), offers her in exchange. Later she witnesses something tragic in the pimp’s house and decides to get involved. This enables her to suddenly get her life back together, as she radically changes after encountering an horrific incident in her neighbor’s house.
The film goes from a comical character study in the first half to an adrenaline fueled thriller in the second half and its star, Wolff, handles both parts with credibility. What is not credible is her sudden transformation from lost soul to a strong action hero.The transformation happens so fast that it’s just hard to fathom.There are also many unresolved plot holes and much more about the narrative that needed to be cleared-up (such as the heroine’s motivations for living as she does) that the filmmakers chose not to weigh in on with needed explanations.
But if you choose to overlook the low-budget film’s many flaws and check only the boxes for a fine performance by Wolff and check another for the artful depiction of the seedy but fascinating Red-Light District in Amsterdam, then you might find it acceptable as a time killer you might enjoy seeing on late night cable.
REVIEWED ON 11/1/2019 GRADE: B-