Up & Down movie review, Jan Hrebejk, Jiri Machacek, Natasa Burger, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba, Petr Forman. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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"Up & Down"
3 stars
(In subtitled Czech)
108 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Friday, March 4, 2005
Directed by Jan Hrebejk, Jiri Machacek, Natasa Burger, Jaroslav Dusek, Martin Huba, Petr Forman, Emilia Vasaryova, Jan Triska, Ingrid Timkova, Kristyna Bokova


The gritty atmosphere won't seem as encompassing on a TV, but the characters should come shining through just fine.

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Sublime slice-of-life explores the struggles of modern Prague culture through interwoven plots

By Rob Blackwelder

An alternately melancholy, hopeful and humorous Czech slice-of-life, "Up and Down" explores immigration and racism, Westernization and the black market, romantic devotion and bitterness among a loosely connected half-dozen denizens of post-Communist Prague.

Kicking off the stories with a pair of immigrant smugglers who discover a gypsy baby left behind in the back of their truck, director Jan Hrebejk ("Divided We Fall") lands the infant in the arms of a barren, manically depressed young wife (Natasa Burger) who literally picks him up in a pawn shop -- much to the dismay of her tender-hearted but lunkheaded, ex-con, security-guard husband (Jiri Machacek). Not only does this illegal "adoption" put his parole in jeopardy, but it also puts him in the position of having to explain his new dark-skinned kid to his skinhead soccer-hooligan buddies.

Meanwhile, a 40-something social worker (Ingrid Timkova) helping the gypsy mother search for her lost baby leads into a parallel story about the altruistic woman's family. When her much older live-in love of 20 years (Jan Triska) is diagnosed with a fatal tumor, he discovers that a last-minute reconciliation with his long-abandoned wife (Emilia Vasaryova) and long-estranged son (Petr Forman, son of director Milos Forman) will not be an easy matter.

A desire for escapism is a running theme in this emotionally complex, humor-tinged drama that reveals deep cracks in the character of its characters, but revels in their imperfect humanity. Some of them learn and grow, some cling to the past, some realize they've moved well beyond the bridges they'd burned long ago, and some flirt with a larger world then fall back into a rut. But Hrebejk -- who peppers the film's atmosphere with incidental allusions to petty crime and corruption -- understands each of them on an intrinsic level, and he sees their lives as the story of his country in the infancy of the 21st Century and the infancy of its democracy.

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