A Per­fect Day

A PER­FECT DAY, drama, rated R, in English and some Serbo- Croa­t­ian with sub­ti­tles, Jean Cocteau Cinema, 2.5 chiles

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - — Jonathan Richards

There’s a dead body in a well. There’s a dead cow in the road. There’s a stolen soc­cer ball. There’s a trou­ble­some woman. Throw all th­ese to­gether with a group of in­ter­na­tional aid work­ers “some­where in the Balkans” near the end of the con­flict in the mid-’ 90s, and you’ve got your­self the el­e­ments of Fer­nando León de Ara­noa’s en­ter­tain­ing story of a day in the life of Mur­phy’s law at war.

The movie mostly cen­ters on Mam­brú, a Puerto Rican trou­bleshooter with an NGO called Aid Across Bor­ders, and this is a good thing, be­cause he’s played by Beni­cio Del Toro with plenty of heavy-lid­ded, rugged, world-weary charm. As the movie opens, Mam­brú and his in­ter­preter Damir (Fedja Stukan) are try­ing to clear a well of the above-men­tioned corpse be­fore it con­tam­i­nates the lo­cal wa­ter sup­ply. But the rope they are us­ing to haul the bloated body up proves un­equal to the job, and they must go in search of an­other.

Not far away a cou­ple of other team mem­bers, free-spir­ited Amer­i­can ad­ven­turer B (Tim Rob­bins) and ide­al­is­tic French re­cruit Sophie (Mélanie Thierry), are tool­ing along a coun­try road when their way is blocked by the car­cass of a cow. The sit­u­a­tion screams trap, and B rea­sons that they are prob­a­bly ex­pected to veer around it to the right, where par­ti­sans will have laid land mines. So he should go left. Un­less the par­ti­sans have an­tic­i­pated this line of think­ing, and mined the other side. Or mined the cow. What to do?

The trou­ble­some woman ar­rives in the per­son of the beau­ti­ful Katya (Olga Kurylenko), a dal­liance of Mam­brú’s who has caused him trou­ble with his girl­friend be­fore, and is likely to do so again. The soc­cer ball is stolen by older bul­lies from young Nikola (El­dar Resi­dovic), and Mam­brú takes the kid un­der his wing and prom­ises to get him an­other ball. This plot strand takes us down the dark­est road in this mostly ami­able tale of the frus­tra­tions of try­ing to do good in a hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment, and tilt­ing against the mad­ness of bu­reau­cracy.

There’s plenty of sym­bol­ism, plenty of con­flict, plenty of scenery, a few in­sights, a few laughs, a few hor­rors, and some coun­try wis­dom in the me­an­der­ing story, which cov­ers about 24 hours in the life of its pro­tag­o­nists. Del Toro and his col­leagues make it easy time to pass.

Soc­cer, any­one? Beni­cio Del Toro and El­dar Resi­dovic

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