Steely hero­ine takes on the bank at home

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

THE LES­SON (UROK) ★★★★★ Di­rected by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov. Star­ring Mar­gita Go­sheva, Ivan Barnev, Ivan Barnev, Ivanka Bra­to­eva, Ivan Savov, An­drea Todor­ova, Ste­fan Denolyubov. Club, IFI mem­bers, 107mins

Nadezhda (Go­sheva) is a hard­work­ing English lan­guage teacher at a provin­cial Bul­gar­ian town. She’s more than ca­pa­ble of ef­fec­tive school-marm­ing, a skill set we be­hold when she dis­cov­ers that one of her pupils has nicked a small amount of money from her purse. Her sense of pro­pri­ety, alas, is matched by her hus­band’s feck­less­ness.

His sham­bolic at­tempts to re­pair the camper­van block­ing the drive­way of their fam­ily home have seen him squan­der mort­gage pay­ments on spare parts.

When Nadezhda ar­rives home to dis­cover they are days away from fore­clo­sure, she sets off a se­ries of nail-bit­ing ad­ven­tures and mis­ad­ven­tures that fall some­where be­tween the Dar­denne Broth­ers’ Rosetta and Run, Lola Run.

The cam­era is trained on the mag­nif­i­cent Mar­gita Go­sheva through­out the film, as she at­tempts to get monies owed from a dodgy English trans­la­tion com­pany and to stom­ach her fa­ther’s lu­di­crously younger girl­friend just long enough to get a loan.

Her deal­ings with a me­nac­ing money­len­der (Ste­fan Denolyubov) point to­wards a dark Four Months, Three Weeks, Two Days style de­noue­ment. But there’s some­thing so steely about our hero­ine, we’re con­sis­tently re­as­sured that she’ll find a way, through un­timely car break­downs and mo­ments of mad­den­ing Kafkaesque bu­reau­cracy at the bank.

Co-writ­ers and direc­tors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov were in­spired by a real life news story to cre­ate this ex­tremely pleas­ing aus­ter­ity thriller. The re­sults are as ex­cit­ing as any­thing yielded up by this year’s block­buster crop.

Im­pec­ca­ble eco­nomic sto­ry­telling, re­plete with im­me­di­ate cam­er­a­work (from Krum Ro­driguez), helped the film­mak­ers take home the Best New Di­rec­tor(s) award from the San Se­bas­tian Film Fes­ti­val. Debt-re­lated stress has sel­dom seemed so darned en­ter­tain­ing.

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