Gangsters, asylum seekers and farmers come together in the Dutch countryside in this distinctive and compelling film by Dutch graphic novelist Guido van Driel.
Here we have what seem to be two stories. In one, Ronnie, played with chilling accuracy by the somewhat grotesque Yorick van Wagenigen (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is a ruthless gangster until an incident changes forces him to question his existence. In the other, asylum seeker Eduardo, in a sensitive turn by the talented Goua Robert Grovogui, struggles to deal with Dutch life and the trauma of whatever made him flee his country of birth.
The two stories are told in an elliptical structure that draws us into very separate lives with a series of fascinating, colourful and beautifully acted and rendered sequences.
Based on van Driel's 2003 graphic novel Om Mekaar in Dokkum, this gangster drama hybrid is a sort of existential tough-guy movie van Driel describes as a mix of 'Tarantino and Tarkovsky'. In a sense, this description doesn't do justice to the film, for while it features plenty of sardonic wit and amusing anecdotes, its real triumph is its simple humanism. It's ultimately a serious tale done straight, but with the aesthetics of the graphic novel.
If at times it feels a little arrhythmic (you're often left wanting less from a scene or feeling like you could have had more), it's perhaps partly because van Driel is first and foremost a graphic novelist, and graphic novels are guilty pleasures for individual readers, not audiences used to three acts and rising and falling action.
This needn't be to the film's detriment however, because van Driel has set out to make a film that's as faithful to its source material as possible. It's a risky decision but one that pays off thanks to fine acting, technical brilliance, and that most rare of birds: originality.
This film may not change the world, but it may just change Dutch cinema.
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