GIVE ME LIBERTY
(director/writer: Kirill Mikhanovsky; screenwriter: Alice Austen; cinematographer: Wyatt Garfied; editor: Kirill Mikhanovsky; music: Evgueni Galperine; cast: Chris Galust (Vic), Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer (Tracy), Steve Wolski (Steve), Maksim Stoyanov (Dima), Ben Derfel (Nate), Darya Ekamasova (Sasha), Michelle Caspar (Michelle), Arkady Basin (Grandfather), Zoya Makhlina (Vic’s Mom), Sheryl Sims-Daniels (Tracy’s Mom), Dorothy Reynolds (Tracy’s Grandma), Lindsey Willicombe (Soprano); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Alice Austen, Walter S. Hall, Michael Manasseri, George Rush, Val Abel, Sergey Shtern, Kirill Mikhanovsky; Music Box Films; 2019-in English/Russian)
“An authentic heartfelt film about real people.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A low-budget, freewheeling, unique serio-comedy by the Russian-born director-writer Kirill Mikhanovsky (“Sonhos de Peixe”/”Fish Dreams”). It’s co-written by Chicago playwright Alice Austen. Among other things, it adds its two cents to the American experience of immigrants and its diversity, taking viewers on a bumpy ride. It was well-received at Cannes this year, and has a healthy mix of professional and non-professional actors.
The young Russian-American Vic (Chris Galust) drives a transport van for low-income people with disabilities in Milwaukee. His day starts off stressful as he tries to get his grandfather (Arkady Basin) to catch a bus so he can be on time for the funeral of a fellow Russian transplant.
On this one day, during his wintry run, there’s an obese man who is a chronic whiner; two regular riders from the Eisenhower Center, a vocational facility for adults with severe neurological disabilities; and a young black woman named Tracy (Lauren “Lolo” Spencer), who has ALS and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around. Along every stop, Vic encounters some kind of disturbance causing delays. On one stop there’s a protest causing a heavy police presence and a halt to traffic. When Vic discovers that the bus hasn’t appeared to pick up his grandpa and a whole contingent of demanding Russian funeral-goers, he gets bullied into loading them all into his van. One of them is the rascal-like middle-aged Russian boxer Dima (Maxim Stoyanov). By taking in the Russian passengers he must make an unscheduled cemetery stop, and the van would have to go through Tracy’s rough black neighborhood (something that bothers the other riders).
To add to Vic’s woes, his nagging mother (Zoya Makhina) informs him that she immediately wants a couch moved from her living room to make room at night for a soprano recital and he has no choice but to oblige her. Vic’s sister Sasha (Darya Ekamasova) is also home. She’s a recent widow who is pregnant, and immediately falls for the flirty boxer.
Observing the tense riders and the Russian immigrants trying to live the American Dream, leaves one feeling good over this crowd-pleaser. There are many funny moments, and a good sense of America as the melting pot for the world. Its quirky characters and sentimentality give the film a special appeal as an authentic heartfelt film about real people.
REVIEWED ON 8/2/2019 GRADE: B+