Tribeca Movie Review: The Optimists

The following film was screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

The Optimists

The Optimists (Optimisti)

Spotlight, Narrative

2006, Serbia

Dir: Goran Paskaljevic

Everything's good and getting better, or so the characters in The Optimists think. With a vivid sense of humor, irony, and sadness, director Goran Paskaljevic creates five stories of people struggling to overcome their harsh realities, while fighting to see the good in their endeavors. Paskaljevic presents a crew of confused individuals, blinded by their hopes of prevailing, that continue to get stuck in unfortunate situations. With a magnificent performance by Lazar Ristovski, from Kusturica's Underground, the film is able to transmit tales of twisted, amusing episodes contrasted with sorrowful experiences. The persons within the film have something going against them, and they either confront this reality with humor or despondency.

The first tale narrates the story of a town torn apart by a flood. We see the townspeople congregate in a huge warehouse for shelter. They are visited by a man claiming to be a hypno-therapist, who says he can cure them all. Accused of being a thief, the man is arrested and taken away, but it is revealed that he is actually a harmless escape patient from the local mental institution.

The second tale, and the most harrowing, concerns itself with a girl who is raped by her father's boss. The father thinks he can kill his boss and get away with it, but realizes his boss owns the entire town. In the end, it is the man and his daughter who end up apologizing.

In the third story, we see a young man, frustrated by his losing streak at the craps machines in the casino and by the recent death of his father. He befriends an ailing old lady at the casino, who has won non-stop. Together they form an alliance to make even more money, and when he professes his plans to his family at his father's funeral, things go awry.

The fourth tale is the most outlandish of them all, and the one that will make the viewer laugh out loud the most. A doctor specializing in cardiology is called over to a farm, where the head of the farm hasn't died yet, but claims he will because of his bloodthirsty son. The son is addicted to slaughtering the pigs and runs amuck on the farm. When the doctor must chase him, he declares his hatred for his father. However, the father gets the last laugh when he finally gets his hands on the boy.

The last story revolves around a group of disease-ridden people, traveling on a bus to a "miracle" pond. The man running everything scams them all and runs out before they get smart to his intentions. Resilient, yet completely deluded, they travel on, expecting to find the pond. And they do find a pond, but it's located in the middle of a rock quarry. To them, this makes no difference and they dive in.

A beautiful film expounding the small and absurd moments of life, no matter how depressing or how uproarious, The Optimists offers a simple look at the unappreciated ironies of life. One of the best films at the festival so far.

/Film Rating: 10 out of 10