A comedy/drama about disillusionment, shame and the gap between the over educated, under employed millennials and their parents, who had high expectations for their kids and feel powerless ...
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A comedy/drama about disillusionment, shame and the gap between the over educated, under employed millennials and their parents, who had high expectations for their kids and feel powerless when watching them fail.Written by
Fails to reach its potential, just like the characters it portrays
"My Last Year as a Loser" is a film by a young Slovenian director, Ursa Menart, that deals with a topic of great importance and familiarity to the educated and ambitious Gen Y'ers trying to, after having finished their studies, start a career in contemporary Slovenia. Against the background of a still-felt economic recession combined with a general lack of opportunities for the educated, the question is: what now? Unlike most of her friends who decided to emigrate and seek opportunities in better-off countries, Spela, a soon-to-be-30 art history graduate, insists on staying in Slovenia, despite struggling to find a job that would pay a regular wage, let alone one that would fulfill her. Her attempts to maintain dignity and a sense of self-worth in the battle with the harsh job market reality is something that will resonate with many. Visually, the film manages very well to portray this claustrophobic atmosphere: shot outside the small postcard-friendly tourist-trodden area of the capital Ljubljana, the rough urban surroundings convey a sense of a stunted society emptied of future prospects.
One problem with the film is that it declares to portray a main character who is faced with no future despite having done everything right in life - i.e. the "nice girl" who got good grades, was conscientious and played fair. Yet Spela is not presented as such convincingly: she doesn't appear particularly intellectual, driven or passionate about anything in particular, and shows little emotional maturity. Instead, her actions - smoking a lot of pot, engaging in recreational sex, etc. - and life perspective match more closely that of a stereotypical lost-in-the-world 19-year old lacking guidance and character, rather than a talented graduate facing closed doors. This reduction of the character to the level of a common student stereotype is problematic not only because it stands in opposition to what Spela is supposed to be, and limits her struggle to the professional/economic sphere, but more so because it attenuates the critique of the actual external circumstances she can do nothing about. In other words, the film is not harsh enough in its critique of the socioeconomic situation. Were Spela, say, a fresh humanities or STEM PhD graduate, an intellectual with a stellar academic record and personal integrity, the brutality of the situation could be illustrated much more poignantly as she would have to decide between e.g. accepting a poverty-inducing low-tier academic post and a line of dehumanizing, boring jobs elsewhere in an environment that doesn't value creativity, critical thinking, and truth-seeking.
As the film progresses, Spela meets and befriends other characters, but most of them again represent the acceptance and even celebration of the very circumstances she is supposedly trying to denounce. Suzi, a tomboyish and inane ex-law student turned waitress who internalized the futility of ambition, is the most representative of this. However, this contrast is never fully developed, nor are any other relationships or promising situations. There is no progression and no wrap-up. The film doesn't go beyond the level of superficial cynical remarks and offers no recourse, ending included. The only occasional tension present is the one between Spela and her boyfriend.
Through its imposition of the notion of "loser" as merely "lacking economic certainty", the film impoverishes its expressive capacity. Its borderline celebration of self-destructive aimless hedonistic approach to life as an antidote to a socioeconomic predicament is problematic and timid. Ultimately, it fails to reach the potential set by the premise - just like the characters it portrays.
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