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