(director/writer: Ena Sendijarevic; cinematographer: Emo Weemoff; editor: Lot Rosemark; music: Ella van der Woude; cast: Sara Luna Zoric (Alma), Lazar Dragojevic (Denis), Ernad Prnjavorac (Emir), Sanja Buric (Alma’s mother), Ali Zijlstra (Sales girl), Alena Dzebo (Bus station attendant); Runtime: 91; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Iris Otten/Sander Van Muers/Layla Meijman/Amra Baksic Camo; Dekalog/Pupkin Film; 2019)-Bosnia-Netherlands-in Bosnian & Dutch, with English subtitles)

“It did enough for me to see how the previous wars left those of a Bosnian heritage hurting.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An Eastern European arthouse diverting coming-of-age film (showing the rocky road to romance, identity and adulthood for a young Bosnian girl trying to find herself and her roots). It’s a low-key, droll and deftly written and directed dramedy by Bosnian born and Amsterdam-based female filmmaker Ena Sendijarevic, who is impressive in her feature film directorial debut without being great.

The Bosnian teen Alma (
Sara Luna Zoric) was raised in Amsterdam by her mom (Sanja Buric) after her homesick father deserted the family many years ago. After learning her estranged father is hospitalized and dying, Alma decides to visit him in the Balkans for one last time.

Alma makes herself at home in dad’s modest apartment. Her adventures on the visit include  meeting in Sarajevo her
crude cousin Emir (Ernad Prnjavorac), resentful her family left the country during the war, who out of spite refuses to drive her to the rural hospital where her father is a patient. On her bus ride there, it takes off with her suitcase still onboard (leaving her with only one dress), while she’s still at the rest-stop admiring the beautiful scenery.

Her sexually jealous unemployed, gangster-like cousin Emir is a bitter pill to swallow, which is made more difficult by her contact with his also idler sidekick,
Denis (Lazar Dragojevic). The romantic idler neglects to tell Alma that he has a girlfriend, as she finds some kind of romance with Denis.

The sincere film offers detached observations about the featured Balkan residents, as it wants to be a drama about making relationships. All the characters are locked into their troubled recent history and are morose when they realize they can’t escape it. The film steers clear of politics, or comparing the East to the West, or talking of the Bosnian War and its genocide. It tries to get inside Alma’s head to give us a rough idea of what the next generation is like for those of Bosnian heritage. I suppose it could have done more with such broad material, but it did enough for me to see how the previous wars left those of a Bosnian heritage hurting, whether they remained in their homeland or settled into a prosperous western country with a different culture.

In its best moments, it goes into a weirdly funny Jarmusch (one of my favorite directors) frame of mind, while in its worse moments I found it hard to get engaged in its alienation and how ineffective its minimalism could be when more was wanted.

It won Rotterdam’s Special Jury Prize for exceptional artistic achievement.