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Something Like Happiness (review)

The movie of the month for November 2006 from Film Movement — the DVD subscription club that introduces viewers to indies and foreign films we’re unlikely to see anywhere outside of festivals; they’re available to the general public a year later — this Czech production is lovely in its harried, hard-won emotion and bitter eccentricity. It’s a “drama-comedy,” Film Movement assures us, but even I, with my taste for the blacker end of the funny spectrum, didn’t find much to chortle at in this bleak yet oddly buoyant tale of three friends and the roughshod family they create amongst themselves in the absence of any greater outside force. As pure drama, though, it is ripe with wonderful ache and optimism. Monika (Tatiana Vilhelmova) and Tonik (Pavel Liska) have been pals since childhood, and he sees hope now for his longtime romantic yearnings for her now that her boyfriend has gone off to America; his heart, it seems, has about as chance of happiness as their friend Dasha (Anna Geislerova), a single mom with two kids and a feckless married lover. Modern industry encroaches on the ramshackle farmhouse where Tonik lives with his oddball aunt until more of their little gang move in; still, everything seems to be falling apart, metaphorically and literally. Writer-director Bohdan Sláma has crafted a story of sweet chaos — which won Best Film at the San Sebastian International Film Festival, eight Czech Lions, and numerous other acclaims — that will stick with you long after it’s ended. Extras are limited to cast bios, but the disc also includes, as each Film Movement DVD does, the short of the month: here, it’s the multiple award-winning “Backseat Bingo.” [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

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