“The Venice Film Festival‘s independently run Critics’ Week awarded its prize to Swedish first-time helmer Gabriela Pichler’s social drama Eat Sleep Die, about a hard-working Muslim girl who gets fired from her factory job.” Variety‘s Nick Vivarelli: “The nod, called Premio del Publico RaroVideo and worth Euros 5,000 ($6,300), is awarded by the fest audience rather than a jury.”
Variety‘s own Boyd van Hoeij is less impressed than that audience: “Though Montenegro-born newcomer Nermina Lukac is magnetic as the no-nonsense lead, Pichler, who also wrote and co-edited, struggles to forge an engaging narrative out of the sociorealist mini-tragedies that befall her ill-conceived characters, with the occasionally preachy tone and a contrived drama involving a driver’s license especially grating.”
At Cineuropa, Camillo de Marco has more on the film—and its maker: “Having obtained a diploma from the Gothenburg cinema school after abandoning her job in a biscuit factory, Gabriela Pincher is comfortable with the setting she has created for her first feature film: it’s home to her. She was born in a working-class family in a marginalized Stockholm suburb to Bosnian and Austrian parents. Camera in hand and with a great attention to light, Gabriela’s inspiration are the Dardennes brothers and their movies. She keeps an eye on the (re)definitions of national identities in Sweden and the internal contradictions that exist within it.”
Eat Sleep Die screens in the Discovery program in Toronto on Sunday, Monday, and next Saturday (September 15). It’ll then compete for the Sutherland Award, presented to a first feature at the London Film Festival, in October.
By the way, back to Vivarelli for a moment: “In a separate prize announced at Venice Friday, Gallic helmer Herve Lasgouttes’s Crawl—another feature film debut—took the Europa Cinemas Label as best European film in the fest’s Venice Days section. This nod was decided by a jury of exhibitors. Set in the Brittany region of France, Crawl centers around a romance between a young man who is small-time crook and a dedicated swimmer whom he gets pregnant before being charged with murder.”
Update: This just in from Adam Cook at Cinema Scope: “Taking a quietly Marxist look at the systematic way the individual is oppressed without taking any ideological shortcuts, Pichler intelligently dramatizes her ideas without imposing a thesis statement. In this way, Pichler comes off as a kind of cousin to the Romanian New Wave, following ‘unremarkable’ characters through social mazes of entrapment.”
Update, 9/10: At the AV Club, Noel Murray argues that “there’s never been a movie character quite like Lukač. She’s no saint—she’s impulsive, and doesn’t always plan ahead—but she’s not the beaten-down, desperate fuck-up that so often anchors these kinds of stories. She busts her ass, and is well-liked by her neighbors, even though few of them can help her long-term. There’s no inherent edge in ‘importance’ to a film about a poor woman in her 20s struggling to make ends meet versus a film about an upper-class New Yorker in a similar situation. (Eat Sleep Die isn’t automatically better than Frances Ha, that is, just because Lukač doesn’t have as many choices as a Greta Gerwig character would.) That said, watching Lukač hustle and persevere and make the best of a bad situation gives more of an emotional kick to Eat Sleep Die’s final scene: a neighborhood gathering in which a drunken kind of ‘for she’s a jolly good fellow’ chant becomes like a defiant anthem for the underclass.”
Lori Donnelly for Filmmaker: “While Pilcher does adhere to the visual hallmarks of the Dardenne-inspired art film, her emphasis on community, the spirited optimism of her heroine, and the subtle incisiveness of her politics set her apart from the miserabilist pack. Consider me in agreement with the crowds at Venice: this was a fine first film, and one of the few pleasant surprises I’ve had at the festival.”
Update, 9/23: “As strong as it is,” writes Blake Williams, “it felt kind of minor until the last ten-fifteen minutes, at which point Pichler created a truly bittersweet farewell, using whirling carnival rides and sad clown faces to infuse the realism with an almost subversive attempt at abstraction.”
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