LFF 2019: The Father – Review

Release Date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 31 minutes, Directors –  Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov

A grieving man (Ivan Barnev) must look after his recently widowed father (Ivan Savov) who tries to track down his recently deceased wife when he believes that she has somehow made contact

As Ivan Barnev’s Pavel pushes through a grieving crowd at an almost finished funeral, in the grey cold, making his way to the front where he struggles to light a candle. It’s at this very early point of The Father that the mild sense of dark comedy is clearly established. However, the humour within the film is more emotional rather than dark, showcasing the emotionally tinged humour of grief.

The funeral which Pavel attends is that of his mother, a death that has a huge impact on his father, Vasil (Ivan Savov). However, it’s not long until a friend claims that she received a phone call from the recently departed wife. On hearing this Vasil immediately sets off in the hope of being able to somehow contact his wife, his son following close behind trying to talk sense into him.

As Vasil finds himself going to people who claim to be able to communicate with the dead, something which Pavel insists is a scam, who send him to sleep in the woods, the film never laughs at him as a character, or his grief. Instead the laughs come at the straight seriousness and frustration of his son, whose perspective the film is shown from. The pair creating an almost odd-couple style duo, as is often standard with a number of father-son road trip comedies.

Of course Pavel himself has his own struggles outside of what he views as his father’s delusions, but not quite on a similar scale. As he finds his situation with his father becoming increasingly out of control; to the point where the police become involved, Pavel’s other major worry is finding some specific homemade quince jam for his pregnant wife. And as all Pavel’s world appears to fall apart around him the theme of grief is never forgotten. Almost seeming to pull the pair apart as they start to loose their temper with each other, to an extent presenting a true father and son story.

Arguably a number of these elements are rather conventional, however with the well-placed humour of the first half much of this doesn’t seem to matter. It’s only as the second half arrives that things become much more obvious in how cliche and conventional they are. The film begins to gradually drop the comedy for more quiet, dramatic moments to focus on developing the relationship of the father and son to get ready for the end of the film. As this becomes the case ideas begin to be repeated and the film as a whole becomes much slower. The feeling begins to set in that potentially it would work better as a short rather than a feature as the initial tone and feeling that was once present and made for an enjoyable first half almost seems to be lost. Resulting in a somewhat underwhelming pay-off when everything ends.

While The Father’s first half has a number of good laughs and a true feel of a grief tinged father-son piece the feeling of convention soon sets in, exchanging comedy for grey drama and the feeling that maybe this would work better as a short film.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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