LFF 2019: Give Me Liberty – Review

Release date – N/A, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Kirill Mikhanovsky

A coach driver (Chris Galust) working for a firm that transports people with disabilities puts his job at risk when he finds himself taking a group of pensioners to a funeral, taking other passengers along with them.

Vic (Chris Galust) is a coach driver for a firm that helps to transport people with many different forms of disability. He has his regulars that he knows well and manages to calmly get them to where they need to be on time and with relative ease. However, with this being advertised, and described by many, as a “madcap comedy” of course there has to be more than just this. On a day when Vic already finds himself running late, and having to deal with his grandfather, causing havoc in their flat by almost causing a fire when making breakfast and smoking in bed, things become increasingly manic. It’s not long until Vic finds his vehicle filled with seniors demanding that they drive him to the funeral of an old friend – while paying passengers are still on board.

Through various wrong directions, chorus’ of traditional folk songs and Let My People Go on the accordion, alongside picking up a stranger claiming to be a Russian boxer and long-lost relative of the deceased (Maxim Stoyanov) “I’ll be there in 10” very quickly turns into something closer to ‘I’ll be there in 90’. And while going past, or near the stops of certain passengers, including Tracy (Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer) – a wheelchair user with ALS – Vic’s frustration goes as he tries to do everything he can to get these seniors off his vehicle so that he can carry on with his job, which is being put at increasing risk because of these endless detours.

We’ve seen such an idea done before in somewhat similar ways and in many ways Give Me Liberty is a basic idea made up of a series of events; becoming increasingly absurd as the piece goes on. Because of this there are times when the film feels more like a book, or a comedic short story, although still a rather funny one. There are many laugh-out-loud funny moments amongst the chaos of the ideas that the film throws in, some which admittedly can be seen coming but some that get so manic that they become so unpredictable you almost sit on the edge of your seat wondering how this moment could possibly get more out of hand. You just wish that almost the entire film could be like this. While the laughs still come the come-down from such scenes feels somewhat uncertain. As if the writers (director Mikhanovsky and Alice Austen) weren’t sure where to go after such frantic moments. Not wanting to continue the comedy as it was, needing a break so that things don’t get too much. Unfortunately the attempted calm-down feels slightly awkward, as if too much of a dramatic drop from comedy to padding until the next moment of attempted hilarity.

When it comes to the second half of the film things do begin to die down; taking a slightly more dramatic leaning. Beginning to look more at the life of Tracy rather than Vic. While the heart that the piece holds is still present the laughs not so much, and the feeling, while still working, to an extent, is still relatively good, holding an, if slightly different, enjoyable feel. However, there are moments where it almost feels as if you’re watching a different film, especially with the new, almost last minute, points and ideas that it seems there’s an attempt to introduce. While some just about take off their are others with not quite enough backing and context to allow them to work, therefore leaving them feeling rather cold, and potentially slightly confusing as the rush of the final 10-15 minutes closes in.

Despite the slightly awkward come-down’s from moments of strong humour and the more uncertain moments, especially in the closing minutes of the film, Give Me Liberty is a film that definitely has its heart in the right place; and it seems to know that. Filled with a lot of good humour, sometimes laugh out loud funny, helping to bring the viewer into the madcap, uncontrollable nature of the loose storyline, or rather selection of ideas. There’s enough there to keep the viewer just about entertained for 110 minutes, even if it could do with some cutting down to make it overall flow better.

Give Me Liberty is very much a mixed bag. While filled with some occasionally strong humour it also feels uncertain about where to go from there a number of times, especially when it comes to how to wrap the whole film up. However, there’s enough there over the course of the winding ideas that are presented to keep things light enough and with a decent enough flow to make the film overall enjoyable for a fair deal of the run-time.

⭐⭐⭐

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